GLENDALE, Ariz. – He'd spent all day trying to figure out a way to get the monkey off his back – but Shane Doan never figured the 800-pound gorilla might go with it.
Scoreless in six games and with just one point – a Dec. 23 goal in a loss to St. Louis – in his last nine, Doan and fellow power forward Taylor Pyatt – without a goal in 14 games himself, decided enough was enough. With one win in the last seven games (1-4-2) during a brutal schedule with several players out, "It was time for the old men to play like kids," Doan said to Pyatt.
SOG: 122 | +/-: -9
By the end of the night, Doan had not only snapped his scoreless streak, he'd ended the longest personal dry spell of all with the first hat trick in his 1,161-game NHL career in a 5-1 laugher against the New York Islanders. It was exactly the kind of lift prescribed for a dragging, banged-up team that had played back-to-back games in the same city just once since Nov. 26 – and won't for another 11 days.
Five of the Coyotes' seven home games were merely pit stops, a chance to hit the 24-hour dry cleaners, kiss the kids and re-pack the suitcase. But this time, there was a cool memory to pack away as well.
"We needed something like this," winger Ray Whitney said. "It's been a tough stretch … the injuries, the road. This was good for us."
Doan got the monkey off his back quickly, pouncing on a juicy rebound of a Daymond Langkow shot just 1:41 into the game. Doan raised his hands, skated over to friend and locker mate Keith Yandle and simulated a series of punches to the bread basket.
"That's just my youthful enthusiasm," Doan said. "I was just happy to get one, because they just haven't been coming. At that point, a hat trick was the furthest thing from my mind."
But when Yandle caught the Islanders on a glacier-slow line change and sent Doan in along in the second minute of the season period, the captain rattled the puck between the pads of New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov and to give him two goals in a game for the 39th time in his career.
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When Pyatt snapped his goal drought at 15 games and Oliver Ekman-Larsson made it 4-1 Phoenix moments later, everyone on the Phoenix bench knew what the final goal of the night was.
Doan was on the ice for nine minutes in the third period. Radim Vrabta shortened his shifts to the point that Doan grunted as he went over the boards. Yandle and Ray Whitney set him on again and again on power plays, Langkow set him up on a 3-on-2 with 12 minutes left but the puck wouldn't settle and Doan only got it with the shaft of his stick. With 15 seconds left, a tip try went wide.
"He literally played three-and-a-half of the last five minutes – and hard. He wasn't floating," Whitney said. "You could tell he was getting frustrated he want to stay on the ice, but his legs wouldn't let him. It looked like it wasn't going to happen. You know … we've been there before."
But with five seconds left, Doan put his head down and churned down the ice one more time. Whitney had the puck and waited, and waited. He left the puck for Doan, who put everything he had left in a shot that whistled though Nabokov's pads as the horn sounded.
"Getting there as tired as he was is one thing, but still having the strength to shoot it is amazing. Especially being the old goat he is," said Whitney, who at 39 has four years on Doan. "You need your legs to shoot, and he pounded it."
While Phoenix teammates piled on Doan, referees Rob Martell and Brad Meier skated to the scoring booth for a video review. Doan watched while Whitney lobbied.
"I went over and told the refs, 'Listen, it's been a long time. It's been 16 years. Tell Toronto that this may never happen again, so make sure this counts,'" he said.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett watched from the bench. "(I'm) thinking, 'Give it to him,'" Tippett said. "The scorer should have a slow finger or something."
Martell pointed to center ice, and Doan, already surrounded by dozens of hats, threw his head back and smiled. The Coyotes have yet another daunting road trip this week which begins with visits to the Rangers and Red Wings, but they head East with a boost of momentum.
"It's a good win and we needed win and a win at home that was fun," he said. "We've been grinding away and we have to get some momentum going. If this does that … hey, it only took me 39 tries."