By chance, Louis Domingue knows Frederick L’Ecuyer and Jonny Murray, two of the referees who worked the first game of the Rangers-Penguins series on Tuesday night, all three natives of Quebec.
So when they skated over to Domingo midway through the second overtime and told him he had to come in, the 30-year-old thought maybe they were joking.
Less than 48 hours later, Domingue — who came off the bench and made 17 saves before Evgeni Malkin’s triple-overtime winner put the Rangers to bed — is the NHL’s greatest playoff story.
“It was crazy,” Domingue said as Tuesday turned to Wednesday morning. “But I guess it’s my life. It’s hockey.
Domingue is in net for the Penguins again in Game 2, with the potential to play deeper in the series – coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday morning that Casey DeSmith is considered a day after day and Tristan Jarry hasn’t. yet to skate as both recover from injuries. The whirlwind will therefore continue.
The NHL, however, is nothing new for Domingo. He’s started 142 regular-season games since 2014, at one point winning 11 straight with the 2018-19 Lightning — a streak that included a win at Madison Square Garden. The Devils are also among six clubs he has played for, making 16 appearances with a 3-8-2 record for New Jersey in 2019-20.
After signing with the Penguins in September, Domingue only played two regular season games but left an impression. In January, a 40-save effort helped the Penguins win at San Jose. Most recently, Domingue made 39 saves in an April 24 loss to the Flyers.
“To say that we were surprised by this [in the regular season], I don’t think so,” Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson said. “I think it was impressive for sure, but I think we have full confidence in his ability.”
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Matheson, another Quebec native, has known Domingue since he was on a midget hockey team with Matheson’s brother. They skate together in the summer. When the Penguins brought in Domingo, Matheson knew what they were getting.
Of course, it is unlikely that he planned this.
“He’s a confident player,” Sullivan said of Domingue. “He has a bit of swagger going for him. I think it serves him well. It’s such an important aspect, I think I’m not only an athlete but above all a goalkeeper. He has confidence in himself. He believes in his game and I think it shows in his body language.
On Tuesday, Domingue admitted he wasn’t quite committed to the game – he was just watching, assuming he wouldn’t be called up. Famously, he ate spicy pork and broccoli between overtime. When the time came, he wasn’t even on the bench, having been sent off to make room for the others.
His attitude, however, served him well anyway.
“You can’t be any more ready than you are now,” he said. “You are ready or you are not. You are just going to play.
Thursday, it was no surprise when Domingue led the Penguins on the ice. Rangers have had time to study his unusual right-handed grip and any tendencies they see on film. The spotlight was on him.
Regardless, it will maintain a steady keel.
“I think Louis understands it’s a hockey game,” Sullivan said. “It’s the same game he plays all the time.”