Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Pierre Engvall (47) scores his team’s third goal of the game against Hurricanes emergency goalie David Ayres during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Ayres, who serves as the Toronto Marlies’ zamboni driver, replaced Petr Mrazek in net after a delay in action. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Pierre Engvall (47) scores his team’s third goal of the game against Hurricanes emergency goalie David Ayres during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Ayres, who serves as the Toronto Marlies’ zamboni driver, replaced Petr Mrazek in net after a delay in action. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Emergency goalie David Ayres helps Hurricanes pick up improbable win over Leafs

The 42-year-old Zamboni driver led the Hurricanes to an improbable victory

David Ayres was sitting in the stands with his wife at Scotiabank Arena when Hurricanes goalie James Reimer went down with an injury.

The emergency netminder for Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs, Ayers left his seat and donned half his gear on the off chance something also might happen to Carolina backup Petr Mrazek.

Midway through the second period, Ayres was by himself in the bowels of the building when his phone started to buzz — Mrazek had been hurt in a scary collision with Toronto forward Kyle Clifford and was down on the ice.

Next thing the 42-year-old Zamboni driver by day knew, he was walking down the tunnel and into the spotlight.

And not long after, he had an improbable first NHL win.

Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before settling down and stopping the next eight directed his way in a suffocating defensive performance from his new teammates as Carolina picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over Toronto.

“I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there,” Ayres said in front a throng of reporters. ”I hadn’t seen the footage (of Mrazek’s injury). I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said, ‘Get going. Get ready.’

“It was wild, it was fun.”

Ayres, who had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and wasn’t sure if he would ever play hockey again, has been a practice goalie with the Leafs and the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for the last eight years.

The native of nearby Whitby, Ont., faces shots from professional players on an almost-daily basis during the season, but never thought he’d be called into service in an NHL game.

“These guys were awesome,” said Ayres, the oldest goalie in league history to win his regular-season debut and the first emergency backup to ever record a victory. ”They said to me, ‘Have fun with it, don’t worry about how many goals go in, this is your moment, have fun with it.’”

He did more than that, and was greeted with raucous cheers from the Hurricanes in their locker room after finishing a post-game TV interview.

“I had no idea I was going to get a shower before I got in the shower,” Ayres, the game’s first star, said with a grin. ”I got one.”

Not long after the final buzzer, the Hurricanes were hawking t-shirts on Twitter sporting the stand-in goalie’s No. 90.

“It’s pretty special,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I told the guys after the game, ‘Thank him because that just gave (us) an incredible memory.’”

Warren Foegele scored twice, while Martin Necas, with a goal and an assist, Lucas Wallmark, Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen provided the rest of the offence for Carolina (35-22-4).

“He probably dreams of playing in the National Hockey League,” Foegele said of Ayres. ”What a moment for him. Something he’ll never forget, and something we won’t either.”

Alexander Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall and John Tavares replied for Toronto (32-23-8), which beat the Hurricanes 8-6 at home in another wild affair at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 23. Kasperi Kapanen and Tyson Barrie picked up two assists each for the Leafs, while Frederik Andersen made 41 saves on a disastrous night for the home side.

Toronto was playing poorly before Mrazek went down with the score 3-1 for the visitors, and things didn’t get much better even though Tavares and Engvall scored on consecutive attempts to make it 4-3 through 40 minutes.

“The reality is that the game really just stayed the same,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe, whose players mustered just seven shots in the third. ”When the goalie switch happened, I talked to the team and said, ‘If we don’t change how we’re playing, they don’t even need a goalie. There’re no chances, no shots, there’s nothing happening.’

“They didn’t need a goaltender the way the game was going.”

Reimer started for the Hurricanes against his former team, but left with a lower-body injury in the first after being bowled over in his crease. He was replaced by Mrazek, who made 31 saves in Friday’s 5-2 home loss to the New York Rangers. But Carolina’s second option went down after that thunderous encounter with Clifford as both players raced for the puck along the sideboards with 8:41 left in the second.

That forced Ayres, who’s been the emergency goalie in Toronto for about half the games this season and is available to either team, into action for the remainder of a matchup between two clubs battling for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

“You kind of think, ‘Oh well how’s this gonna end up?’” Brind’Amour said. ”That’s incredible. That’s why you do this.”

After the bizarre second that saw Carolina score four times, give up two goals, lose Mrazek, and have Ayres pressed into action, the Hurricanes made it 5-3 just 53 seconds into the third after jumping on a turnover and beating Andersen in tight.

Necas then made it 6-3 at 3:44 when he picked up a loose puck to finish off a chaotic sequence as boos rained down.

The jeers continued on a Leafs power play later in the period and got louder as the period wore on, with some fans chanting “Let’s Go Raptors!” as the final minutes ticked down on an embarrassing performance from the home side.

“We obviously didn’t handle the circumstances of the game very well,” Tavares said. ”Might have been our poorest night of execution.

“We seemed like the team that played last night and travelled.”

Carolina trailed 1-0 after the first, but tied it at 5:46 of the second when Wallmark scored off a scramble. Niederreiter then blasted a one-timer on a power play at 9:43 before Foegele made it 3-1 at 10:49.

Mrazek was out of the game 30 seconds later.

Teravainen made it 4-1 with Clifford in the box for charging at 13:17, but Tavares scored on the first shot against Ayres through the five-hole 19 seconds after that.

Engvall buried a loose puck on Toronto’s next shot at 15:10 to make it 4-3.

The Leafs, who were coming of an encouraging 4-0 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday, then got a power play — fans screamed “Shoot!” almost every time a Toronto player had the puck anywhere near the opposition net — but the Hurricanes didn’t allow anything through.

Ayres, who signed an amateur try-out before entering the game and his gets to keep his jersey, made his first save late in the second on Auston Matthews as Carolina led 4-3 through a wild 40 minutes and shut things down in the third.

“These guys,” Ayres said of what he’ll remember most. ”How great they were to me. The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me.

“Awesome.”

___

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RE/MAX LifeStyles Realty donated $3,500 to the Christmas Hamper Society. (Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society/Special to The News)
Christmas hamper deadline extended for residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Anyone needing help needs to get in touch with the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society

Jacob Mattson was delighted once he completed 250 laps of the Maple Ridge Secondary School’s track. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge man runs mega-marathon for Movember

Jacob Mattson, 25, only started running frequently nine months ago

Lynn Martin captures this picture of the Golden Ears Mountain from her sundeck on 230th Street in Maple Ridge earlier this year. If forecasters are correct, we could be seeing a fair amount of snow on those mountain peaks again this winter. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Expected view sometime very soon

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

The City of Maple Ridge has cancelled the Christmas Convoy. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Santa Claus won’t be coming to Maple Ridge this year

The city’s Christmas Convoy has been cancelled along with photographs at ValleyFair Mall

Poor maps have resulted in hikers being led into dangerous terrain, and rescued by helicopter. (Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue)
Ridge Meadows search team lauds new maps of Golden Ears

Poor online maps led to helicopter rescues earlier this year

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Most Read