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The Desert Dog Blog: Still Can't Forget Last Year's Game vs. Florida

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes arrived back in the Valley from Minnesota in the wee hours of Thursday morning, so, as expected, only a handful of players attended the optional workout at the Ice Den in Scottsdale.

Goalie Jason LaBarbera, who stopped 33 of 35 shots the night before in a 4-2 win over the Wild, was there and we spoke about Wednesday’s win and Saturday’s home game against Florida.

“We needed to win last night,” LaBarbera told me. “You don’t want to go down three games in a row and then have to play a Florida team we don’t know anything about, except that we squeaked one out against them last year.”

Coyotes players celebrate their memorable comeback victory over Florida on March 18, 2010. Photo by Getty Images.
Ah yes, the Florida game from last season. Surely, Coyotes fans remember this game ... (please enjoy that subtle hat tip to the late Leslie Neilsen, or better yet this one).

If you don’t recall the game, allow me to quickly re-tell the tale about the extraordinary match played on March 18, 2010 in Sunrise, Florida:

The Coyotes, playing the final game of a long road trip, fell behind 3-0 to the Panthers but scored three goals in the third period to force overtime and eventually a shootout, which Phoenix won to set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44.

The play that will be long remembered is the game-tying goal scored by Radim Vrbata with one minute left on an innocent dump-in from just beyond center ice. With Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov racing to the bench for an extra attacker, Vrbata simply swept the puck into Florida’s zone from the right boards and then watched as it took a bizarre hop in front of Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, hit his glove and skipped into the net.

LaBarbera: “I remember sitting there and thinking ‘What the heck just happened?’”

As a reporter re-writing and re-writing a story about this game for this Web site, I remember thinking the exact same thing.

Anyway, thanks to the Internet (and supposedly Al Gore?), I was able to find the highlight of this goal in a matter of seconds.

► Click here to check it out:

In my last blog I named Bryzgalov, Ray Whitney, Keith Yandle and Eric Belanger as my candidates for team MVP thus far and asked readers for their pick(s).

While most agreed with me, some pointed out that center Martin Hanzal deserves to be listed with the names above.

The evidence: Hanzal is currently tied for fourth place on the team with six goals. Three of those goals were game-winning goals, a team-high. In addition, Hanzal is plus-5 while regularly playing against the opponents’ top line, and the Coyotes went 2-2-2 in the six games they played without him while he was nursing an injury in late October. Sounds good to me.

A few personal observations, if I may:

Dave Vest
twitter: davest4yotes
• The following statement boggles my mind (in a good way): If UConn, my alma mater, wins its football game against the University of South Florida on Saturday, it will play in a BCS bowl game – either the Fiesta or the Orange. UConn, by the way, has four losses, including one to Temple.

• Valley sports reporter Kent Somers, with whom I had the pleasure of working with during my time at the Arizona Republic, has handled the Derek Anderson tirade and its aftermath with class and professionalism rarely seen these days in our new TMZ world of journalism.

• Rest in Peace Jim Kelley. You were a terrific hockey writer and a very nice man.

Reach Dave Vest at and follow him on twitter @davest4yotes.
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