GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you were wondering how long it would take Max Domi to make an impact in his return from a hand injury that sidelined him nearly two months, the answer is three games.
The Coyotes still dropped a wild, 5-4 overtime game to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at Gila River Arena, but Domi had a goal and an assist, and he spun a little magic in his 18:42 of ice time, reminding teammates, coaches and fans what they had been missing since he broke a bone in his right hand in a fight with Calgary’s Garnet Hathaway on Dec. 8.
“Max was good,” said coach Dave Tippett, who wasn’t pleased with many other Coyotes on Thursday. “That’s the first game since he’s come back that he really looked like he had his skating legs.”
The Coyotes got off to a sluggish start and fell behind 2-0 after one period, but a combination of three successive Canadiens penalties and a ridiculous display of skill by Domi turned the tide in the second period.
As he skated in on Montreal goalie Carey Price, Domi’s initial attempt at the net was deflected into the air by the Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen and Jeff Petry. Without a second thought, he batted the puck out of the air with his stick blade, sending a line drive toward the upper corner of the net that Price snared with his glove hand. The play electrified the crowd.
It didn’t result in a goal, but what eye-hand coordination by Domi. pic.twitter.com/qv1PsIiVlP
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 10, 2017
“It’s just reaction,” Domi said. “You get lucky once in a while.”
If Domi hadn’t accrued a lifetime’s worth of similar highlights in juniors, you might believe luck played a role, but his playmaking ability is undeniable and it got the Coyotes back in the game shortly thereafter.
Domi took a stretch pass from Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the Montreal blue line and feathered a perfect touch pass to Christian Dvorak streaking up the left wing. Dvorak buried a wrist shot in the far upper corner to cut the lead to 2-1 at 13:46 on a power play.
Two minutes later, Domi displayed the type of tenacity that would make his dad proud. Teammate Peter Holland fanned on a shot off a breakaway, but Domi followed the miss and whacked away at the puck at the side of the net, eventually pushing it past Price at 15:45 of the second period. The goal was initially disallowed but a review overturned the call on the ice, giving Domi a goal and an assist.
After the game, the captain-in-the-making wasn’t interested in discussing his own performance. He was more concerned with the team’s slow start and its inability to hold a 3-2 lead heading to the third period.
“I think overall it’s going to be a good learning curve for us,” he said. “It’s tough to go into the third period in this league so when you do you’ve got to take advantage of that.”
When asked if he felt like his old self, however, Domi acknowledged the obvious.
“It’s coming for sure,” he said.