GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antoine Vermette has had scoring droughts like this before.
He didn’t net his first goal in the 2011-12 season until his 17th game with Columbus. It took 20 games in his rookie season with Ottawa in 2003-04.
“The experience factor serves me well in those situations because you can easily get down,” Vermette said. “I was seeing signs that I was getting there. I’ve had a few games with some stretches where I felt a little more upbeat; a little more myself so I knew it was going to come.”
It took 15 games, but the ice finally broke on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Vermette scored his first goal of the season off a rebound of Mikkel Boedker’s shot early in the second period.
He added an empty-netter with 1:06 remaining in the game to help the Coyotes to a 4-2 win that was their third in three tries against their Pacific Division rival this season and improved them to 6-1 against the division.
“That’s probably his best game he’s played all year and not just because of the goals,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He was really engaged in the game. Hopefully that’s a good step for him.”
Vermette admitted the drought was eating at him a little, if not as much as it might have earlier in his career.
“You’re impatient,” he said. “You’re competitive and you’re used to a certain level of play so you’re expecting a lot of yourself. It’s frustrating when its not there right away.
“It’s nice to get that off (my back). You want to contribute in different ways and certainly putting the puck in the net, that’s nice once in a while.”
Vermette missed six games earlier this season — split between late October and early November — with a lower-body injury. The absence ended his consecutive games played streak at 482, which was the second-longest streak among active players at the time.
Players rarely admit how much an injury impacts their play and Vermette was sparse with the details, but he made it clear he hadn’t dealt with anything like this before.
“You don’t want to create excuses for yourself but for a stretch, it was nagging a little bit,” he said. “Guys deal with stuff constantly but that one was a little different.”
Some critics had wondered if Vermette lacked motivation after winning a Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, but Tippett has never questioned Vermette’s commitment.
“He’s had some competitiveness, just not on a consistent basis,” Tippett said. “I think that injury set him back a little bit so hopefully this gets him up and going.”
It was almost poetic that Vermette finally broke through on a night when captain Shane Doan was out of the lineup, leaving Vermette to wear an A an alternate captain.
“On and off the ice it’s big loss for us because his presence means so much for this team,” Vermette said of Doan. “Ultimately, this is a team game and you want to find a way to help your team.
“Hopefully I can get my rhythm and tempo back at the level where I know I can play and hopefully I’m never going back in that (unproductive) area again.”