Chris DiDomenico ends epic quest for first NHL goal

Ottawa Senators forward Christopher DiDomenico finally has his first NHL goal. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Ottawa Senators winger Chris DiDomenico is no stranger to scoring goals. He’s scored 90 in the QJMHL, 47 over two levels of Swiss hockey, 46 in the Italian A League, 13 in the ECHL, five in the AHL,  and four representing Team Canada at various tournaments.

On Friday night though, he got the one that counted the most – his elusive first NHL tally.

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The 28-year-old rookie took a feed from Derick Brassard at the side of the net and found a hole in Keith Kinkaid, to get himself on the board.

The goal came with just 37 seconds left in the game and sent the Senators to overtime (they ultimately lost in a shootout), but it’s the wider context of DiDomenico’s goal that makes it special.

In an era in the NHL when players are having success at younger and younger ages, the guy grinding his way to the top of the sport over a decade feels like a dying breed. DiDomenico is a pretty remarkable case and a pretty compelling example of how an NHL dream can hang by a thread and still come to fruition.

Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs – his hometown team – in the sixth round 11 years ago, the resilient winger has been through it all in pursuit of an NHL chance. He’s played in the second-best league in Switzerland. He’s represented Canada at the Spengler Cup. He’s dominated the Italian A League playoffs to the tune of 42 points in 15 games.

Finally all that toil paid off this season as he got off to a hot start with the Senators AHL affiliate – the Belleville Senators – and earned the call-up to the big club. He did play three games with the big team last year, but didn’t register a point and had only six penalty minutes to show for his cup of coffee.

This time around he’s made a bigger impact. On Thursday, he won a power-play draw to earn his first NHL point.

Then earlier on Friday he set up Mike Hoffman with a nice feed for his second career assist.

By the end of the night he’d managed two points, a plus-three rating and two shots on net in a career-high 17:16 of ice time. Perhaps more importantly, he was the best story in the NHL east of Las Vegas.