Opportunity can come in many forms. For goaltender Louis Domingue, it meant rising to the occasion in his first NHL game in over two years and stopping 40 shots to drag the Penguins to a win over the San Jose Sharks.
“Ever since camp, I was prepared for this moment,” Domingue said after the game. “I saw an opportunity, you either take it or you don’t. I thought I was focused. It wasn’t hard tonight to stay focused. I play for the Penguins. It’s a privilege to play for this team and this organization.”
On Saturday night, the privilege was all the Penguins to have Domingue in the crease. Despite Pittsburgh getting out-shot 11-4 in the first period and 17-8 in the second, the Penguins were in the game due to Domingue’s goaltending and Kris Letang’s third goal of the season coming in the first period.
That proved to be one of only positive things in regulation for the Pens, outside of their goaltender. San Jose spent over 6 minutes in the third period with the man advantage on power plays (courtesy of two different Marcus Pettersson infractions, and carry over of a Jake Guentzel second period penalty). This gave golden chances for the Sharks to pull ahead and angle for a regulation win. Thanks to Domingue and the PK, SJ didn’t get it.
“We relied on [the penalty kill] a lot,” coach Mike Sullivan said after the game. “We leaned on them a fair amount in the 3rd. I thought those guys did a terrific job... It was a huge boost to get those kills in the 3rd period. It gave us an opportunity to get to overtime.”
Once in overtime, the Pens at least made quick work of it by ending the night on the first shift, courtesy of their best players. Letang, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel combined to pull out the win with Crosby walking Brent Burns and finding a pass to Guentzel. Posted in front of the net, it was an easy tap-in for Guentzel to end a night that wasn’t pretty, but still effective in the win column.
For his part, Crosby credited the goaltender and PK for their big performances as well.
“Louis is a big part of it,” the captain said. “He let us hang around in a game we didn’t play very well. I think our penalty kill is probably the difference-maker. We’ve got to be better than we have been the last few games.”
Despite not playing all that well, it still makes for the Pens first successful trip to California (2-1-0 this year) since 2016.
As Evgeni Malkin said in the locker-room after the game in his announcement of the team’s player of the game award, “not best game, but who cares? We have Louis.”
Malkin: "Not best game, but who cares? We have Louis."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 16, 2022
Domingue: "What a privilege it is to be a Penguin, boys. Let's keep it going in Vegas." pic.twitter.com/bhXZsqUooz
It’s just that who knew they actually would have needed him?
Some final thoughts
- The story of the game was Domingue. The 29-year old right-handed goalie has bounced around to now Pittsburgh, his sixth different NHL team. With now 141 games, he certainly has a bevy of NHL experience, and he is a goalie who played reasonably well in 36 games in a backup role in Tampa from 2017-19 (a .910 save% but a 28-8-1 record with Tampa). With Casey DeSmith’s struggles, the door is open for Domingue to get the chance to at least play again in the NHL for the Pens at some point.
- This was a game where nothing was going right for Pittsburgh. Evan Rodrigues didn’t record a shot on goal. Guentzel didn’t have one either, until the GWG. Malkin and Jeff Carter went a combined 1-for-11 on faceoffs. The Pens’ big players have been so great this year but are seeming to bog down a bit on this road trip.
- One player not slowing down is Letang. He’s up to a seven game point streak (2G+10A) and had points on both Pens goals of the game. Letang led the team in ice time (24:48), shots on goal (5), shot attempts (9) and blocked shots (6). While not a great team game, Letang’s contributions were once again invaluable.
- Brock McGinn was back from the COVID list, and just in the nick of time for this game. McGinn’s 5:06 SH icetime led the Pens, he blocked four shots and took three of his own. As an important “glue guy” type of important depth player, Pittsburgh missed him when he was out. He obviously couldn’t control when he was out or back, but it was fortunate McGinn was available for this one and able to play pretty well despite being stuck in a hotel room in Dallas for almost a week.
The Pens have one more game on the road in Vegas on Monday before finally trekking back East to play at home next on Thursday against Ottawa. They are looking pretty weary right now at the end of this long trip, but at 3-2-0, they at least have found a way to guarantee it will not be a negative one in the standings.