Last night's telecast of the Stars/Coyotes game on Versus began and ended with discussion on our Petr Prucha. The final notes being one of dramatic fashion.
But before we get there, let's start, as we should, at the beginning.
Dave Strader (Phoenix) and Daryl Reaugh (Dallas) had the call of the game, so that meant perhaps more introspective on Phoenix than may usually happen in a Versus telecast. (Note: Keith Jones in studio said it was a perfect time to get "reaquainted" with the Coyotes; a team you can bet he hasn't watched all that much unless they were on VS in the fall).
Dave and Daryl focused on three Phoenix players to start the game - Scottie Upshall (3-4-7), Matthew Lombardi (5-4-9), and Petr Prucha (1-5-6). Those are their point totals in their 12 games with the Coyotes since trade deadline. That's 9 goals, 22 points, and a combined +3.
Now, those who have been watching the Coyotes from back East - and I am not alone - know that this line, although together for perhaps games three through maybe six of that span, have not played non-stop together. BUT, they have almost always, and from the beginning, looked very much in sync.
The announcing team credits that to the fact that they "play the right way, the way that Wayne Gretzky wants the entire roster to play. They compete hard for pucks and are gritty in the offensive zone."
Tonight Phoenix's uncontested top line played no differently.
Upshall scored two goals, both assisted by Lombardi and Prucha, and both in a similar tic-tac-toe fashion. One a nice passing play in close and the second coming into the zone with Lombardi dropping the puck back for Upshall to take the blast from the point.
Prucha was a main topic of conversation for Daryl and Dave. Here are some highlights.
Daryl: "This is one area where Petr Prucha can help the Coyotes. His rookie season with New York, he was dynamic on the powerplay. Obviously [he] has faded in that department and out of favor in New York. But his second life [is] here in the desert."
Dave: "He played a lot of that season with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. When I asked him about scoring the 30 goals, he said, well, you know, it was a lot easier playing with those guys."
This has always been a hotly contested battle between Prucha supporters and, well, let's just say those that say he was lucky in who he played with. But I hold true, and goodness knows if I had time I'd review the video tapes I have floating around, to prove my point, but he did not always play with Jagr, certainly not when Nylander and Straka were Jagr's linemates for the majority of that season.
Now Prucha may have scored his powerplay goals with benefit of Jagr, as did many other guys in this league. But he played five on five with guys like Steve Rucchin, Marty Ruchinsky, Petr Sykora. Those are nice players, but Petr paved his own path, make no mistake. It was not without his own talent and effort that he got to 30 goals in this league.
Daryl: "Good little play by Petr Prucha on that faceoff. He won the draw and then made himself available for the tip in after. Remember back in his rookie year. He was right in the conversation with Crosby and company, scoring goals at similar rates. And then he fell out of favor in New York and could never work his way back up the ladder to be a regular guy with the Rangers."
Dave: "He basically told the New York media that he wasn't very good at English. I did and interview with him last week and he's a wonderful young man with a sense of humor. His English is far better than he would lead you to believe. He just explained to me the biggest problem for a lot of guys like him is being properly understood or understanding the exact question they're being asked. He's always worried about being taken out of context."
Daryl: "You can speak on the ice. You don't need any language down there and he's getting every opportunity here. He's looked good tonight."
As the game went on, they kept coming back to the top line, calling Prucha "relentless," and saying how its the tenacity of the entire line that makes them tick.
Look, we as fans of Prucha don't need to be told how fantastic he is. We know. We always knew. But it provides insane pleasure for me to hear other people say it.
It was too long in New York between hearing wonderful things about Petr Prucha. His determination and good attitude were never in question and continually lauded by media and teammates alike. But what about the fact that he is a legit and talented hockey player. That got lost, as so much else sometimes does in New York.
But back to the game for a minute.
Dallas, a team desperately trying to make the playoffs, although time nor points are in their favor, continued to come on hard especially in the late stages of the game. They scored first, and Phoenix scored twice to take the lead after one. The teams traded powerplay goals, and both took a few too many penalties. Phoenix appeared to collapse late, causing a 5-3 lead to evaporate and force the game into OT.
Where none other than Petr Prucha stepped on ice for some four on three action, after Dallas was called for a trip in the extra frame.
It took only 53 seconds into overtime when our favorite departed got in a good position after the faceoff, crept up close to the net, and scored the Coyotes first overtime winner of the season.
And the first overtime winner of his career.
Let's watch it again (and again...and again...) :)
For post game interviews, including a short one with a happily, smiling Prucha:
Gretzky said, "The three of them play the game the way the game should be played."
We as fans can't help but nod in agreement.
Here are all game highlights, as Enver Lisin also notched two goals and an assist in the total team effort:
Lastly an official write-up from Coyotes.com:
Petr Prucha: "It's a great feeling."
Petr Prucha is playing hockey again - a game he loves. As fans of his we have to love and embrace that. He's got to be at his happiest when he's playing a game he loves. And playing the game with more poise and confidence than I have seen him play in years.
As much as we all hate to admit it, this resurgence we are seeing - it sadly could not have happened in current day New York, the way things are now.
Instead it had to happen under a different sky, for the color of another team. A second life in the desert, perhaps.
He may be further away, and that's a painful reality, but if anything can help bridge the gap of 3000 miles, it's the joy of seeing our favorite player smile again.