SUNRISE, Fla. – With a lot of grit and a little luck, the Phoenix Coyotes earned a record-setting win Thursday night.
Radim Vrbata scored with 59.7 seconds left in the third period to force overtime, then added the winner in the third round of the shootout in the Coyotes’ 4-3 comeback victory over the Florida Panthers.
Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak also scored in the third period to help the Coyotes stretch their winning streak to seven games. The Coyotes set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44, besting the previous mark set by the 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets – before overtime ties were broken in shootouts.
“It was just one of those games where we never quit,” Vrbata said. “We came back and it was nice to get that.”
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime for Phoenix.
David Booth and Cory Stillman scored second-period goals for Florida, and Stephen Weiss had a power-play goal in the first. Tomas Vokoun made 43 saves.
Florida’s Nathan Horton and Phoenix’s Lauri Korpikoski also had shootout goals.
The Coyotes sent the game to overtime with Vrbata’s fluke goal. Vrbata dumped the puck down the ice and it took an odd bounce just before reaching the crease. The puck hopped over Vokoun’s glove and went into the net to tie it.
“For us it seems, Murphy’s Law, whatever can go wrong is going wrong,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said.
Hanzal closed the gap to 3-1 with his power-play goal at 3:56 in the third period. His shot went off the post and into the net. Stempniak then made it 3-2 when he scored just 43 seconds later.
“We kept pushing and took some chances and they didn’t take any chances,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “We were lucky to get some bounces.”
The Panthers went up 3-0 on Stillman’s goal at 7:31 in the second period. He backhanded a shot past Bryzgalov for his 14th goal of the season.
Booth made it 2-0 at 1:03 in the second when he deflected Bryan McCabe’s slap shot from just inside the blue line into the net. Horton, who returned to the ice after missing 17 games with a fractured tibia, had assists on both second-period goals.
Weiss opened the scoring with a power-play goal with 6.7 seconds left in the first period. He sent a slap shot from the left circle past Bryzgalov to put the Panthers up 1-0.
NOTES: Thursday’s game was the only meeting between the Coyotes and the Panthers this season and the first time that Phoenix had played in South Florida since Feb. 10, 2007. The two teams faced each other once last season, with Phoenix beating Florida 4-1 at home on Nov. 8, 2008.