Coyotes winger Max Domi’s backhand on a breakaway floated wide after Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard caught a piece of the shot.
Later, he had another look in-tight that kissed the post.
And with time winding down Monday, Domi’s throw at an empty net somehow managed to get blocked by Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson.
“You’d like to score those,” Domi said. “But it’s a great play by him.”
The next morning, coach Dave Tippett forecasted a fluky bounce would flip Domi’s puck luck – “He’ll shoot one from the corner, and it’ll go off somebody’s skate and go in,” Tippett said. “That’s the way it usually goes” – but Domi snapped a seven-game drought that evening by handcuffing Kings goalie Ben Bishop from the slot after a slick pull-up move.
It was his first of two clutch goals in that 3-2 win after an 11-round shootout, and while his execution may waver – as evidenced by those two games – Domi’s ability to create is steady.
And that seems to be an important catalyst for the Coyotes’ success as a group.
“He’s really playing up to the level that we need him to play at,” Tippett said. “Hopefully he’ll continue that through the end of this year and pick right up next year.”
After his two-goal output Tuesday, Domi improved his point-per-game clip to 0.67 – second on the team to only winger Radim Vrbata (0.72) – and he ranked fourth overall in points with 31.
But what seemed especially insightful was how the Coyotes have fared when Domi is on the ice, as they had earned points in 54 percent of the games he’d played. They also were 5-0-3 in the eight games he’d scored.
It’s tough to predict how Arizona’s season might have changed if Domi wasn’t idle for eight weeks with a broken bone in his hand, but it’s clear he makes a difference when he’s involved.
“The puck follows those guys around,” Tippett said. “So he has the puck, even if he’s not scoring, he’s around the puck enough where you notice him doing things with it. If you don’t notice him out there and the puck’s not around him, he’s probably not playing very well. So that’s a good sign that he’s doing a lot of good things for us.”
Being a playmaker is a role Domi recognizes he has and one that he realizes ultimately relies on him being active with the puck – regardless if it leads to a goal or not.
“The way that I kind of assess my game is if you’re on the puck and moving your feet, you’re creating chances and making your linemates better, then you’re doing your job,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to be having points every night to be helping the team win.”
And creating these opportunities doesn’t always mean putting a shot on goal. On occasion, the contribution is much more subtle.
“You chip a puck out on the half wall in your own zone and then go down and have a 2-on-1 and get a shot off,” he said. “You’re still part of that chance.”
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No doubt, though, Domi’s value is amplified when he’s scoring goals, with his latest outburst a shining example. After tying the score early in the third, he called for extra time when he tied it a second time with just 45 seconds left.
This time, the puck found him at the back post all alone where he had ample time to lift the puck over Bishop.
The win was the team’s third in a row, which tied Arizona’s longest win streak of the season, and was the fourth straight game in which the Coyotes had banked at least a point.
Overall, they entered Thursday’s home game against the Red Wings 4-1-1 in their last six and 10-8-2 since Feb. 2 when Domi returned to the lineup – a span that accounted for more than a third of the team’s total points.
And while Domi’s presence may not be the sole reason for the improvement, better play with him on the ice probably isn’t a coincidence, either.
“He’s a good player,” Tippett said. “Any team in the league, you take one of their top players out of it for an extended period of time, you’ll miss that player. When he comes back, he gives you a boost, and that’s what Max’s done.”