NEW YORK (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins poured into the dressing room after the primary interval of additional time towards the New York Rangers spent. Their legs heavy and the end result nonetheless undecided, they dove headfirst into the fruit and sports activities drinks laid out by the crew’s coaching employees.
Louis Domingue wasn’t spent. Just hungry. The sort of gnaw within the abdomen that comes from nervously sitting round for three-plus hours watching your teammates commerce wild swings of momentum with the Rangers.
So Pittsburgh’s well-traveled backup goaltender seemed over the choices obtainable Tuesday night time and settled on a spicy pork dish. Just one thing to tide him over till postgame, at any time when that may come. He wasn’t speculated to play. Not with starter Casey DeSmith matching Vezina Trophy favourite Igor Shesterkin save for save by 4 durations.
DeSmith would not make it by 5 durations. A lower-body injury sent him skating toward the exit in the course of the second additional time. Suddenly, the participant who questioned if his love of the sport would return as his thirtieth birthday approached was thrust into the highlight just just a few blocks from Broadway, stomach crammed with spicy pork and all.
What occurred subsequent will stay on in Penguins lore, irrespective of how their first-round sequence with the favored Rangers goes.
Pittsburgh will carry a 1-0 lead into Thursday night time’s Game 2 thanks largely to a journeyman who hopes he could lastly have discovered a way of place. With DeSmith’s standing unsure, Domingue seems headed for his first profession playoff begin.
He can solely hope to drag off a repeat of his unlikely Game 1 cameo. He thought the referees had been joking after they skated over to the bench and informed him to get unfastened. They weren’t. So Domingue stretched somewhat, threw on his catcher and blocker after which settled into the crease. It all occurred so rapidly, there was no time to get jittery.
“You dream about that your whole life, you’re playing in overtime in the playoffs, are you kidding me?” Domingue stated. “You suppose you’d be nervous in a state of affairs like that, but it surely was just enjoyable for me.”
The sort of enjoyable that was arduous for Domingue to search out when the Penguins signed him to a one-year contract on the eve of coaching camp final September. He’d spent many of the 2020-21 season within the minors. More of the identical awaited in Pittsburgh, which was set on the high with All-Star Tristan Jarry and DeSmith.
Still, Domingue threw himself into his work. He posted a stable .924 save proportion taking part in for the Penguins’ AHL affiliate and performed nicely in two spot begins within the NHL, the second a 39-save efficiency in a loss to Philadelphia two weeks in the past.
“I wanted to be back in the NHL this year,” Domingue said. “I think I put in the effort to get back. I had a few opportunities here and there. I’m pretty happy to be where I am today. I’m pretty lucky to be playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a hell of a team.”
A crew that now finds its playoff destiny tied — a minimum of within the quick time period — to the play of a goaltender who hasn’t been an NHL common for almost a half-decade. Domingue started his profession in Arizona in 2014, taking part in for a sequence of unhealthy groups that by no means reached the playoffs. He had extra success as a No. 2 in Tampa — together with a 21-5 mark in 2018-19 — earlier than bouncing to New Jersey, Vancouver and Calgary. He made just one begin for the Canucks. And one for the Flames.
Still, Pittsburgh’s entrance workplace appreciated Domingue’s expertise and with no one within the minors NHL prepared, took a flyer on him. Eight months later, it paid off spectacularly. At least for an evening.
“The depth in all the positions is so critically important this time of year and we’re living it right now,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan stated. “That’s the significance of that No. 3 goalie within the occasion you must go to him, when you can fill that place with an actual succesful man that has NHL expertise, that’s an enormous bonus and Louis checks all these containers.”
The Penguins referred to as up Alex D’Orio from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, a critical trace that Domingue will get the nod in Game 2. Sullivan is barely hoping issues go as easily for Domingue with a bit greater than a second’s discover to prepare.
“That’s not an easy task when you’re sitting on the bench for that long,” Sullivan stated. “He was on the bench for a long time. He made a couple of key saves for us early on right away. I thought he did a terrific job under real tough circumstances.”
AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.
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