By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
In Toronto for a massive meeting with the Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes’ first brush with danger came with an injury that knocked James Reimer out play in the first period. And down to just one goaltender, it didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to find themselves truly screwed, as Petr Mrazek was decked by the Leafs’ Kyle Clifford and knocked out of action.
Without a single goalie in uniform, the Canes made the call to the first goalie available.
A call answered by 42-year-old arena zamboni driver David Ayres, who became the first emergency backup goaltender to earn an NHL victory thanks to an 8-of-10 showing in a 6-3 win over the Leafs.
Ayres’ night started out downright worrisome, as he surrendered goals on the first two shots thrown on net, the first from John Tavares (under Jaccob Slavin) and the second from Toronto’s Pierre Engvall on a rebound in front of Ayres.
But with some new pants (Ayres switched from Toronto blue to Carolina red during the second intermission), Ayres settled down with eight straight saves, including a perfect seven-for-seven line in the third period, to earn the victory.
“As you could tell, I couldn’t stop a puck if I had to in the second,” Ayres, who is now the oldest goaltender in NHL history to win his regular-season debut, told reporters after the win. “I told the boys in the intermission, ‘I’ll be ready to go.’ All I thought was keep breathing nice and slowly and relax, the shots are going to come.”
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour called it a special moment, and Ayres’ teammates for the day welcomed him back to the locker room in the only acceptable fashion following the eight-save performance.