NEW YORK — Louis Domingue played hero for the Pittsburgh Penguins and, through serendipity, became the winning goalie of the Penguins Round One, Game 1 triple OT win over the New York Rangers, 4-3.
New York goalie Igor Shesterkin made a team record 79 saves. Domingue made 17.
The juxtaposition came about as Domingue watched the game as the backup goalie but was thrust into the game after starter Casey DeSmith suffered a lower-body injury in the second OT. Domingue admitted that he drifted out of game preparation somewhere by that second overtime and into being a fan watching the incredible Game 1 battle.
Domingue, 30, even had a moment to poke some fun at MSG for putting him in the runway instead of on the bench.
“I’d be lying if I said that I was engaged all the time. There comes a time when you’re just a fan also. You just want your team to score. And I was just focusing on (that). I was watching and it just comes at you fast,” said the goalie. “It’s crazy. Sometimes the backup goalie sits on the bench…I started on the bench then I got kicked out–a lot of room. I guess the tickets are more expensive right next to the glass.”
He was also self-effacing. He thought officials were joking with him when he was summoned into the game.
“I saw (DeSmith) go to a bench, and I wasn’t sure why. (Officials) just blew the whistle. And it happened that I know both of the referees over there,” Domingue’s story began. “I honestly thought they were joking with me, and they were saying that I had to go in. After that, you just go out and play.
And it was crazy. But I guess that’s my life. That’s hockey.”
New York beat the Penguins in three of four games during the regular season, including three convincing wins in 10 days from late March to early April. Then DeSmith pulled himself out of the game. Head coach Mike Sullivan said DeSmith was still being evaluated after the game.
Domingue was thrust into a double-OT nailbiter with the hopes of the Penguins on his back. PHN asked how long it took to get comfortable and was surprised by the answer.
“Right away. Quite honestly, I felt good right away. I felt zero pressure,” Domingue smiled broadly. “You dream about that your whole life. You’re playing in overtime in the playoffs. Are you kidding me? You think that you would be nervous going into a situation like that, but it was just fun for me.”
That’s a pretty good attitude.
The Penguins didn’t have to win the game, but yes, they did have to win for a myriad of reasons, psychological and physical. Another loss would only embolden the young Rangers and make the Penguins’ job that much tougher.
Domingue faced a shot in the first few seconds. Then faced 13 more in the final 10 minutes of the second OT period.
“A shot in the belly is exactly what you need to get into a game like that. But I thought we played hard for the time I was in there. You know, it’s different when you’re on the other side of the glass. But I definitely felt like we battled hard…”
Last summer, Domingue was a lost goalie. He’d played for a seemingly endless string of NHL and AHL teams as he bounced around and was exiled to the lonely practice squad with Calgary. Then new Pittsburgh Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo called, and Domingue had a renewed vigor for hockey.
Louis Domingue admitted back then that he lost motivation and passion. Living in a suitcase, separated from teammates because he had to be healthy if needed, and not playing games sapped his desire.
Tuesday night, he got to live what he called a childhood dream. He hoped that he would be with the NHL club in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be the first time the Penguins’ third goalie had to beat the New York Rangers in a Game 1.
Hello, Mr. Game 1, Jeff Zatkoff.
According to NHL PR, Domingue was the first goalie in NHL history to enter the game in the second OT period or later.
Domingue may be in net for Game 2, as Sullivan said Casey DeSmith was being evaluated for a lower-body injury. That seems to indicate it was more than a cramp. This season, Domingue made two NHL starts, including a 40-save win over the San Jose Sharks in January. He’s played 142 NHL games but never started in the playoffs.
Thursday could be his first.