Puck Daddy - NHL

After a few weeks of violent controversies, NHL fans were given a comedic breather by Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun(notes) in Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Well, for everyone except Panthers fans and fantasy owners with Vokoun on their roster.

Netminders have obviously allowed goals from center ice or beyond before, as Vokoun did on Radim Vrbata's(notes) meek shot; but rarely are those goals allowed with 59.7 seconds left in the game and with that goalie's team clinging to a one-goal lead. Ouch:

Panthers fans in attendance "mockingly cheering his next save" following the 105-foot goal, as estimated by the Miami Herald. (Yes, there are a few transplanted New Yorkers in Sunrise, Fla.) The gaffe earned a dishonorable mention in Thursday's Three Stars, although the Panthers would protest that dishonor, as defenseman Bryan McCabe(notes) had Vokoun's back after the game according to the Sun Sentinel:

"He's stopped 50 shots a night for us every frickin game. On our ice, anything can happen," defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "The puck was bouncing all night like a tennis ball. It's bound to happen one game a year."

Actually, it was 43 saves and then another in the shootout, but who's counting? McCabe's point is well-taken: Vokoun is undeniably the team's MVP this season, and the goal surrendered by Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec against Jeff Schultz(notes) of the Washington Capitals last October was even more embarrassing.

Sure, the goof may have cost the Panthers two important points for their dimming playoff hopes. (ED NOTE: Technically just one point, since they earned the charity point for an overtime loss.) But as Donny Rivette wrote on the Panthers blog Litter Box Cats:

The play sucked beyond words, but running him out of town - or more ridiculously mock-cheering - is neither fair nor responsible. Quantifying what he has brought to Sunrise - undeservedly solid goaltending - cannot be overestimated, nor thanked for enough.

Vokoun's a pro. He'll get over it. Plus, it could be worse; it's not like a teammate clocked him on the head with a stick in a fit of frustration ... you know, for a second time, that is.

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