Photo: The Arizona Republic
It had been over a month since Radim Vrbata had scored a goal, February 21st to be exact. He scored goals 29 and 30 that night against Los Angeles.
Thursday, after missing the last two games with injury, Vrbata broke his long scoreless drought in a big way, potting goals 31 and 32 in the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena.
With the win, the Coyotes move into 7th place in the Western Conference with 89 points. They are tied with the Dallas Stars for 3rd place and the Pacific Divison lead, but the Stars have a game in hand and also hold the tiebreaker.
Still, with only a handful of games left and four teams in the same division fighting for three spots, Thursday night's win was as big as they come.
"Our players knew the importance of this game from the get-go," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett.
Phoenix was dominated in the 1st period as San Jose came after Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. But Smith, who posted his 3rd shutout of the season against the Sharks, was able to fend off the early offensive attack.
"We kind of weathered the storm in the first and got our legs going in the second," said Smith.
The Coyotes only got once chance on the power play Thursday night, and the team with the worst power play percentage in the league made it count. Vrbata scored his first of two goals at the 3:49 mark with Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney picking up assists.
The Sharks continued to pound away in the second period, but Smith continued to shut the door.
In the 3rd period, the Sharks did not get as many scoring chances as the Coyotes defense clamped down. And Phoenix also added a little insurance. The Coyotes capitalized on a 3 on 1 at the 8:17 mark of the 3rd period when Whitney fed Vrbata who put it past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi for the final goal of the game.
Vrbata's two goals are even more impressive when you consider that he had an allergic reaction to a penicillin regimen that he had been on over the last couple weeks.
"It was frustrating because [I] would feel good one day, and the next morning [I] would wake up with so much pain," said Vrbata.
Vrbata said he was feeling good now, but believed his battle with this reaction is not over.
"I hope tomorrow I'm waking up and feeling fine," said Vrbata.
With two assists on the evening, Whitney now has 999 points in his NHL career.
The Coyotes have four games left and play the next two at home. Three games are against teams that are not in the playoff picture, including Saturday's home game against the Anaheim Ducks.