BY CRAIG MORGAN- arizonasports.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Max Domi was in prime position. He had the puck deep in the slot with Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck moving from left to right.
It was the perfect scoring opportunity, but Domi never considered taking it. He couldn’t with Shane Doan open at the far post and a raucous New Year’s Eve crowd holding its collective breath at Gila River Arena. The future face of the franchise wasn’t about to steal the moment from the current face of the franchise.
“I’m not really a goal scorer,” Domi quipped. “He has six million goals.”
Domi’s return-pass on a give-and-go landed right on Doan’s tape, and the Coyotes captain buried the offering into the open side of the net for his 380th career goal. That marker broke Dale Hawerchuk’s franchise record and set the tone for a very happy New Year in a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Doan added two thundering hits, a critical screen on Oliver Ekman-Larson’s fifth game-winning goal of the season and an empty-netter against the team with which he played his first NHL season.
“The symbolism is pretty cool and I recognize that,” said Doan, who tied Hawerchuk’s mark with a hat trick on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. “It was nice just to get it quickly and not dwell on it.”
Doan-apalooza started early in Glendale on Thursday. Before the game began, a group of fans tossed more than 100 hats onto the ice to congratulate Doan on the Tuesday hat trick that had come with a Blackhawk-heavy crowd in attendance.
The 20-year veteran waved to the crowd after the hats stopped falling, found a black cowboy hat and decided to wear it along with a wide grin.
“I’m not on Twitter so I had no idea that that was going on,” Doan said. “It kind of caught me off guard but you want to say thanks to the fans because it’s pretty incredible that they would do something like that.”
The night was just as special for everyone else in the organization — for everyone who has ever been associated with perhaps the most genuine article you will ever meet. His wife and kids sent a taped message from Hawaii where they are vacationing, everyone who spoke to him offered their congratulations and scores of former teammates texted him.
“To know how much he cares and how much he wants to do well and how much he wants to be the leader — to see him succeed at it is very gratifying,” coach Dave Tippett said. “You see how much work he has put into this franchise. That big smile on his face, when he scores even an empty-netter, that’s pretty rewarding — not just for myself but for the whole organization.”
Louis Domingue had 35 saves to post his fourth straight strong start. Ekman-Larsson scored his 10th goal of the season and Viktor Tikhonov added a goal, but as the Coyotes headed out on a three-game road trip through western Canada, it was crystal clear which player was driving this feel-good story.
Arizona is 18-16-3 and sits in second place in the Pacific Division as the midpoint of the season approaches. Doan has nine goals and 11 points in his past 10 games, and at age 39, he leads the Coyotes with 13 goals.
“He’s just leading our team,” Tippett said.