Arizona fans have been fantasizing about watching Max Domi in a Coyotes jersey for two years. His NHL debut only fueled their wildest dreams.
Domi recorded his first NHL assist on a sweet dish to Oliver Ekman-Larsson crashing the slot. He added his first NHL goal on a subtle move inside the blue line on which he cut across one player and shot between two Kings, beating goalie Jonathan Quick to the glove side in Arizona’s stunning 4-1 win on Friday at Staples Center.
“I’m so happy for him,” coach Dave Tippett told FOX Sports Arizona. “He’s waited for this game for a long time. To come out and play as well as he did, it was really nice to see.”
It’s hard to imagine a better opening night for the Coyotes. They got seven points from the young players they hope will form part of the core of this team for years to come. They washed away the stench of last season’s 56-point road kill in one night, they got a 40-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and they earned the win in, of all places, Los Angeles — against the reviled Kings.
To cap it off, Domi said that forward Steve Downie fished the puck out of the net after Domi’s first NHL goal and gave it to him.
“That’s the guy I’ve been hanging out with pretty much every day throughout training camp,” Domi told reporters. “For him to do that was pretty cool.”
Tippett was quick to point out the numerous turnovers the Coyotes committed through the first period and a half, and all the work they still have to do, but that’s a coach talking. For fans, it was hard to divert attention from Domi.
“It was tough to get a smile off my face that whole 60 minutes,” the rookie said. “I was really excited to be out there skating with these guys and trying to help them win.”
Throughout the last three non-playoff seasons, general manager Don Maloney and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc promised that better days were ahead. Domi is the point of that spear, the first of the team’s exceptionally skilled draft picks to find his way to the NHL club.
Maloney tried to temper expectations on Wednesday.
“The last thing we want to do is put all the pressure on Max Domi and Anthony Duclair to carry us and score all these goals,” he said. “Naturally, we want them to come in and play well, work hard and make an impact but we’re really focusing on them growing as players as the season progresses.”
Tippett said recently that he expects all of the young players to take a step back at some point this season as the grind of the NHL’s 82-game schedule takes its toll. That is probably the prudent expectation for Domi as well, but on opening night, prudence was an unwanted guest.
“I think the whole thing, overall was (my) welcome to the NHL,” Domi said.
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