First, the Philadelphia Flyers were counting the days until goaltender Ron Hextall returned. Then, when things went from bad to worse, they were counting the minutes.
Hextall, suspended for the first 12 games after attacking Chris Chelios of the Montreal Canadiens with his stick in the playoffs last spring, went into the nets Saturday night at Toronto for a team that had gone 3-7-2 without him.
Hextall failed to stop the first puck shot at him, but recovered to play two solid periods in the Flyers' 7-4 victory. After giving up two goals in the first six shots, Hextall settled down, but he suffered a slight groin pull and was replaced in the final period by Pete Peeters.
"Not playing was tough," Hextall said. "And when they scored in 50 seconds, it was worse. But then I settled down and felt pretty good out there.
"My knees were shaking at the start, and I didn't feel right until the second period.
"I'm not the whole answer, though. The team came out to play tonight. We played better than in most games when I was suspended."
That first shot, by Vincent Damphousse, was a powerful slap shot. It reminded Hextall that the first shot he ever faced in the NHL went past him into the net.
"After two periods and 21 shots, I was tired," Hextall said.
The victory was only the fourth for the Flyers, who are in last place in the Patrick Division.
Montreal 3, New York Rangers 2--The Canadiens scored all their goals in 3:16 of the second period at Montreal to win for the fourth time in the last five games.
Guy Carbonneau, Ryan Walter and Shayne Corson beat goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck in rapid order. The rest of the game, Vanbiesbrouck stopped 30 shots.
St. Louis 5, Quebec 2--Sergio Momesso scored twice at Quebec and Vincent Riendeau had 35 saves in his first start of the season and the Blues handed the Nordiques their sixth loss in a row.
Boston 3, Buffalo 3--Except for two minutes of the third period at Boston, the Bruins dominated.
But in the short span, Rick Vaive and Christian Ruttu scored goals to get the Sabres even and extend their unbeaten streak to four games.
New York Islanders 3, Detroit 2--Pat LaFontaine scored twice and the Islanders finally won a home game. The Islanders were 0-4-2 in their first six games at Uniondale, N.Y.
Steve Chiasson assisted on the first Detroit goal, a 50-footer by Daniel Shank, and scored the other. For the second game in a row, newly-acquired Jimmy Carson failed to get a point for the Red Wings.
Calgary 7, New Jersey 3--The Flames can be beaten on the road, but the Stanley Cup champions are unbeatable at home.
Jiri Hrdina scored twice to lead the easy victory that gave them a 5-0-2 record on their home ice. The Sabres also are unbeaten at home (5-0-1).
Minnesota 3, Chicago 0--In his previous outing, Jon Casey couldn't stop the puck. After he gave up five goals in the second period against Toronto, he was relieved.
But in this game at Bloomington, Minn., the North Stars' young goaltender stopped everything. He made 34 saves to post his second shutout.
Pittsburgh 3, Edmonton 1--Mario Lemieux is having trouble scoring, so at Edmonton he became the playmaker.
Lemieux assisted on all three goals, Wendell Young stopped 28 shots and the Penguins won on the road for the first time this season.