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.”

ALSO READ: Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

___

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

Surrey Police Service cruiser. (File photo)
Surrey Police Service, CUPE sign staff transfer agreement from RCMP to new force

Chief Constable says there will be ‘no disruption’ to police service during transfer

SkyTrain running through Whalley. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Mayors’ Council wants feds to fund Surrey-Langley SkyTrain in upcoming budget

Mayors’ Council on regional transportation sent letter to federal government Monday

Premier John Horgan with drawings of replacement bridge for the Pattullo during a February 2018 presser. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey city staff want to act on council’s behalf for ‘minor’ changes to new Pattullo

The old bridge’s replacement is expected to be open for traffic in the fall of 2023

Spring Break kits available for free at Surrey Libraries branches. (submitted photo)
Free ‘Spring Break Kits’ for kids at Surrey Libraries

Children don’t need a library card to get a kit, but can sign up for one for free

An immunizer prepares to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site. (Fraser Health Authority photo)
North Delta COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open ‘in the coming weeks’

Clinic next to Delta City Hall opens March 15 for seniors 90+, Indigenous people 65+, Indigenous Elders

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

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

Some of the hundreds of pounds of trash removed by divers last month from Abbotsford’s Walmsley Lake.(Henry Wang photo)
VIDEO: Divers remove 462 pounds of trash from Abbotsford lake

Walmsley Lake dive uncovers several tires, hundreds of drink containers and a tent

Trent Miner is returning to the Vancouver Giants, the team announced. He has been released by the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.(Rik Fedyck/Vancouver Giants)
Trent Miner returns to play goal for Vancouver Giants

Netminder was part of epic 11-game winning-streak by Langley-based team

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Most Read