Radim Vrbata wasn’t having much fun heading into the Olympic break. The Phoenix Coyotes winger and 12-year NHL veteran was in the midst of a painful scoring slump with no end in sight. After a hat trick on opening night last October and a formidable start to the season, Vrbata suffered bouts of inconsistency for several months. His native Czech Republic passed him over for a spot on its squad set to compete on the world stage in Sochi, quite possibly due to uncertainties about his ability to score goals given his recent ups and downs.
Thankfully, offensive dry spells don’t last forever for someone of Vrbata’s scoring repertoire, and he put his resurgence on display Thursday night, scoring twice and propelling the Coyotes to an impressive 5-2 win at home over the Montreal Canadiens. He notched his first multi-goal game in almost two months, finding the back of the net barely two minutes into the first period and again just over halfway through the third period to bequeath his team a two-goal lead and help the Coyotes scoop up a well-earned and desperately needed two points in the current neck-and-neck battle with four other teams for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Perhaps most impressively, Vrbata was in such fine form without his usual line mate Martin Hanzal on the ice with him. Hanzal missed his second straight game with a lower body injury, so Vrbata instead played on a line with Kyle Chipchura and new teammate Martin Erat (acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals only two days prior). The chemistry on the line seemed natural, and Chipchura assisted on both of Vrbata’s goals, including a jewel of a feed to set up the third period lamp-lighting.
Vrbata isn’t only finding chemistry with teammates he’s not used to skating with. He’s finding his game again, and it couldn’t come at a better time with lots at stake for the Coyotes as they grind out the regular season’s final stretch and hope they will still be playing hockey come playoff time.