NEW YORK — If he were a 22-year-old goalie, newly turned pro and pressed into action because of a couple of injuries on the big club, maybe Louis Domingue would have approached Thursday night differently. But this was familiar territory for the 31-year-old, even if it was his first regular-season NHL start since April 24, 2022.
“Sometimes it’s harder when you’re young, but when you get older, you don’t build yourself up too high for a game like this,” Domingue said. “You just try to do the job.”
And that’s exactly what Domingue did in a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, stopping 25 shots, including 14 in a lopsided second period, as the Rangers moved to 8-0-1 in their last nine games in front of three different goalies. Igor Shesterkin now has been out a full week with what the team is calling “minor soreness.” Jonathan Quick, who started the two previous games after Shesterkin’s injury, is now day to day with an upper-body injury.
So the goalie duo for the Rangers on Thursday was their usual AHL Hartford pair, Domingue and 22-year-old Dylan Garand. Domingue’s last run of NHL games came in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, when he jumped into the net — after an early-game snack of spicy pork and broccoli — for the Penguins at the Garden in Game 1 and picked up the win in triple overtime. Domingue played the next five games of that series, which the Rangers won in seven games.
A couple of months later, Domingue was in the Rangers organization. He had a solid year in the AHL last season (22-12-8, .911 save percentage) but didn’t even get a token call-up. He’d been up and back in the last week, backing up Quick the last two games, before finding out Wednesday night he was making his 127th career start for his seventh NHL franchise.
“He’s been around, he’s played some games,” Peter Laviolette said. “Knowing we had a guy coming in here, it’s not his first rodeo. He really stepped up big for us.”
Domingue had a quick chat with Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at center ice during warmups and made sure to say after the game what the legendary goalie told him.
“It’s actually something that everybody should probably listen to,” Domingue said. “He came to me and said it’s pretty rare that two French (Canadian) guys get to play against each other nowadays in the NHL, so let’s give them a good show. I thought he did and I think I delivered my part, too.”
Domingue did so well he had the Garden faithful chanting his name. “I guess I have an easy name to chant,” he joked. “It was hard enough when I played in the playoffs here. They were booing me, not ‘Lou’-ing me.”
The rest of the Rangers — down two goalies, plus Adam Fox and Filip Chytil — delivered their part, at least in the first and third periods. The Artemi Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Alexis Lafrenière line produced the game’s first two goals, with Lafrenière scoring the eventual game-winner off a two-on-one feed from Panarin 1:41 into the third. That line had a few dominant shifts in the first as well, and is leading the way offensively for a group that hasn’t found much depth scoring of late.
Blake Wheeler did contribute his first goal as a Ranger, one of the easier ones among the 314 he’s scored in his career. A rebound of Will Cuylle’s power-play shot dropped at Wheeler’s feet with an open net and he shoveled it home for a 3-1 lead, and Panarin closed it out with an empty-netter. After a second period in which the Wild held a 34-7 edge in shot attempts, the Rangers’ response in the third was notable.
“Our system we play and our dedication to the defensive side is what’s made us a good team,” Wheeler said. “We missed the guys who weren’t in there, but what a luxury to have a guy like Louis come in and play the way he played.”
Domingue may not get another look, though, with the Rangers off for five days after Sunday’s visit by the Blue Jackets, but it certainly makes sense to give Shesterkin and Quick the maximum rest and let Domingue grab another start.
The Rangers are off to their best start since 2008-09 and have reached 10-2-1 by winning in a variety of ways, with a variety of lineups. And now three different goalies. Laviolette and his coaching staff have done their part, Panarin is the engine and a somewhat odd collection of high-end talents, kids and plumbers have jelled quite nicely to take care of the defensive side — Thursday marked the seventh game of the first 13 in which the Rangers allowed no more than one goal.
“It’s never one thing,” Laviolette said. “It’s probably a combination of a bunch of different things. You can have objectives and what you think is necessary to be successful. If you can check off eight out of 10 of those objectives and you can do it consistently, you probably find yourself winning hockey games.”
(Photo of Louis Domingue: Elsa / Getty Images)