The best thing about the playoffs in hockey is the sheer unpredictability of the sport, where just about anyone could end up as the hero for a night.
For the Penguins, even about a month about Louis Domingue taking a starring role (if only for a night) would have been way low on the list of candidates.
Sure, the journeyman goalie played a couple of NHL games this season — and did well in them too. But it’s one thing to stop some shots against San Jose in January, it’s something very different to be thrust into a game in the middle of double overtime of a playoff game.
The 30-year old with the laid back personality ended up making it look easy, sliding right into the game and being tested by a few shots. He’d get in front of 17 Rangers’ shots until the Pens could win the game for him.
“I saw [Casey] go to the bench and I wasn’t sure why they just blew the whistle,” Domingue said. “It happened that I know both of the referees that were there, Johnny Murray and Frederick L’Ecuyer, both French guys. I honestly thought that they were joking with me when they were saying that I had to go in. After that, you just go out and play. It was crazy, but I guess that’s my life. It’s hockey.”
Domingue’s teammates had faith in him.
“I know Louis is unbelievable,” said Evgeni Malkin, who scored the overtime goal “He’s big, he’s fast. I [was] not nervous. It’s hard to score on Louis in practice. The only [concern] is maybe he’s cold a little bit, but he made a couple saves right away, and we feel we’re fine.”
So cold in fact, just moments after the huge win, Domingue recounted for national television how he was eating some spicy pork in between overtime intermissions.
Being the backup goalie in Madison Square Garden is a lonely and isolating experience. It’s one of the remaining arenas where the extra goalie can’t sit on the bench with him team, and instead just on the outside of the rink.
“I’d be lying if I said that I was engaged the whole time. It comes a time where you’re just a fan, also,” Domingue said. “You just want your team to score, and I was just focusing. I was just there; I was watching and it just comes at you fast. It’s crazy.”
It didn’t phase Domingue and he was ready when unexpectedly called upon. Even if he didn’t get the best in-game meal.
“It was not great. I needed something in my belly,” Domingue said with a laugh. “Maybe it sustained my energy.”
Domingue would know, he has a keen interest in cuisine, as can be seen on his twitter page with several snappy cooking videos and even a published book, “Cooking Goals”.
Who knew it would take a chef goalie to make an emergency appearance and help cook up a win in Game 1 for Pittsburgh?
That’s the beauty of the NHL playoffs, where the best stories that emerge are often from the most unexpected places. Among notable and unexpected Penguin playoff goalie lore moments that stand out, the Pens had Jeff Zatkoff as Mr. Game 1 from 2016. Frank Pietrangelo’s “the save” in 1991. The incredible 2001 run of Johan “the Moose” Hedberg. And now, joining those moments and characters for a spot in the franchise’s playoff goalie lore will be the spicy pork game from Louis Domingue.
“You dream about that your whole life; you’re playing in overtime in the playoffs. Are you kidding me?” Domingue said with a laugh. “You think that you would be nervous going into a situation like that, but it was just fun for me.”