Vrbata leads Coyotes to 3-1 win over Panthers

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 11, 2014 at 10:43 pm •  Published: March 11, 2014
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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Radim Vrbata is peaking at the right time.

Vrbata had a goal and two assists to lead the Phoenix Coyotes to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Vrbata also had the lone shootout goal in Monday's 4-3 win at Tampa Bay. Vrbata is second on the team with 19 goals, trailing Antoine Vermette at 22, and has six points in the last four games.

"When the puck is finding the back of the net for him, it just seems like he's got that extra step," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mike Ribeiro also scored for the Coyotes. Mike Smith made 31 saves.

"Sometimes we struggle to score goals, we need our goal scorers to be putting the puck in the net," Smith said. "Vrby has played well as of late."

Phoenix won its second consecutive road game for the first time since Nov. 27 and Dec. 3. The Coyotes are one point behind Dallas for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Brandon Pirri scored and Roberto Luongo stopped 23 shots for the Panthers.

Florida has lost 10 of 13. The Panthers have only six goals in the last four games.

Phoenix opened a 3-0 lead when Vrbata scored at 5:52 of the third. Vermette fed Vrbata in the right circle and he sent a wrist shot into an open net.

"You score that one and you start feeling good about yourself," Vrbata said. "You get a couple of lucky bounces."

The Panthers closed to 3-1 on Pirri's power-play goal at 8:54 of the third. Pirri's shot from high in the right circle touched several Coyotes players' sticks and went over Smith's glove high in the net.

It was Pirri's first goal with Florida since he was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2.