By VIN A. CHERWOO, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins went into the playoffs knowing they would be without starting goalie Tristan Jarry for at least the first couple of games. Late in a marathon opener against the New York Rangers, they lost backup Casey DeSmith.
Now, their postseason hopes could depend on their No. 3 goalie — 30-year-old Louis Domingue — who until Tuesday night had exactly one playoff appearance and had played in only three NHL games the last two seasons. He signed with Pittsburgh — his sixth team in five years — as a free agent last September and spent most of the season in the AHL.
Domingue was watching an extraordinary duel between DeSmith and Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin when DeSmith suddenly had to leave the game late in the second overtime. Up next: Domingue, who had just had a meal of “spicy pork” between the first two extra sessions.
“I saw him go to the bench and I wasn’t sure why they blew the whistle,” Domingue said. “I honestly thought they were joking with me — they were saying I had to go in. After that, I just go out and played. It’s crazy, but I guess that’s my life. It’s hockey.”
He played and then some, making 17 saves to push the game into a third overtime where Evgeni Malkin scored on a deflection to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory.
“You never know how things are going to unfold,” Domingue said. “I wanted to be back in the NHL this year. 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.”
And one that was awaiting word on the health of DeSmith, who had made a career-high 48 saves before leaving, appearing to favor a leg as he skated off.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said DeSmith was day-to-day and would be evaluated Wednesday. He had nothing but praise for Domingue, who in an eight-year NHL career has played in 142 games with 126 starts, most of them with Arizona and Tampa Bay more than four years ago.
“That’s not an easy task when you’re sitting on the bench for that long,” Sullivan said. “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.”
Domingue was tested right way as he had to make two saves on Adam Fox in his first 10 seconds on the ice.
“A shot in the belly is exactly what you need to get into a game like that,” he said. “I felt good right away, I felt zero pressure. You dream about that your whole life — you’re playing in overtime in the playoffs. You think you’d be nervous going into a situation like that but it was just fun for me.”
The DeSmith-Domingue combo outlasted an outstanding effort by Shesterkin, who finished with 79 saves — the second-highest postseason total in NHL history.
Both Pittsburgh goalies were applauded in the locker room after the game. Malkin, who also had an assist, said he wasn’t concerned about Domingue when he went in the game.
“I know Louis is unbelievable,” Malkin said. “He’s big, he’s fast. I’m not nervous, it’s hard to score on Louis in practice. … He saved right away a couple times and I feel like we’re fine.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday night in New York before shifting to Pittsburgh for two games.
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