Emergency backup Dave Ayres helps Hurricanes defeat Leafs

Jake Carter
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Saturday, February 22, 2020


Toronto, ON – It’s a rare occurrence to see an emergency backup goaltender actually suit up in a game. But that was the case on Saturday night in Toronto, as 42-year-old Dave Ayres made eight saves on ten shots for Carolina in a 6-3 win over the Leafs.

Ayres, who serves as the Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver, entered for the Hurricanes in the second period after injuries to starter James Reimer and backup Petr Mrazek.

The 42-year-old from Whitby, Ontario made NHL history. At 42 years, 194 days, he became the oldest goaltender to win his regular-season debut. He also became the first emergency backup goaltender to record a victory.

Lucas Wallmark, Nino Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho, and Martin Necas all scored once for the Hurricanes, while Warren Foegele scored twice.

Alex Kerfoot, John Tavares, and Pierre Engvall found the back of the net for Toronto.

Frederik Andersen allowed six goals on 47 shots, as the Leafs were outshot 47-26.

It was a frustrating night for the Leafs.

“It's just not good enough," Mitch Marner told reporters after the game. "I expect myself to be a lot better in these types of games and knowing it was a big one, knowing that this team's gonna come out like that. That's bulls**t on my part.” 

Like Marner, Auston Matthews also wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort.

"No disrespect to Davy, awesome guy,” Matthews told reporters after the game. “But when you have an emergency goalie like that come into the game, I think the consensus is to shoot the puck as much as possible."

Toronto only had ten shots on Ayres, who entered midway through the second period.

But Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe saw the Leafs problems in the game before Ayres entered.

"I talked to the team, said if we don't change how we're playing, they don't even need a goalie,” Keefe told reporters after the game. “There's no chances, there was no shots, there's nothing happening. They didn't need a goaltender the way the game was going."

The contest got off to a fast-paced start, with both teams wanting to set the tone physically. Zach Hyman bumped Jaccob Slavin into Reimer, resulting in an interference penalty for the Toronto forward. Reimer was shaken after the contact and came out of the game midway through the period. He was replaced by Petr Mrazek.

Shortly after, the physicality continued. Andrei Svechnikov received a boarding minor for knocking Tyson Barrie into the boards. Barrie awkwardly crashed into the boards and left the game clutching his shoulder. Barrie, who has recently been rumoured in trade talks, returned for the second period much to the relief of Leaf fans.

Toronto opened the scoring in the final minute of the period. Kerfoot buried the rebound on a Jake Muzzin point shot to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead.

Andersen had to be sharp early on, as Carolina held a 14-10 edge in shots after 20 minutes.

With 14:14 remaining in the second period, the Hurricanes answered. Andersen stopped an initial shot from Jordan Martinook, but Wallmark potted the rebound to tie the game at 1-1.

Midway through the frame, Niederreiter gave the Canes the lead on the powerplay. His shot beat Andersen top corner to make it a 2-1 game.

Less than a minute later, they added to their lead. Foegele got the rebound after a Joel Edmundson point shot. Just like that, it was a 3-1 game.

But that wasn’t the wildest part of this game.

With 8:41 left, Mrazek skated out of his net to play the puck. Kyle Clifford ran into the goaltender, sending Mrazek’s helmet flying and leaving the goaltender injured. Clifford received a minor penalty for charging, and Carolina needed another goalie.

Enter Ayres, suiting up for his NHL debut at the age of 42.

Aho scored on the ensuing Canes powerplay, extending their lead to 4-1.

Ayres’ night didn’t get off to a great start, as the first shot he faced was from John Tavares. It also happened to end up in the back of the net.

With 4:50 to go, Engvall pounced on a rebound to pull the deficit to 4-3.

The wild game continued, as Andersen stopped two consecutive breakaways. Shortly after, Clifford fought Edmundson in the Canes zone after a Clifford hit.

After a crazy second period, the Leafs trailed 4-3 and were being outshot 37-18.

53 seconds into the final frame, Foegele beat Andersen underneath the arm on somewhat of a broken play for his second goal of the night. His tally made it a 5-3 game.

Nearly three minutes later, Carolina scored once again. Necas scored into a gaping net after a Barrie giveaway behind the net. Toronto desperately needed shots on net and trailed 6-3.

The frustration began to mount for Leaf fans, with boos starting to be heard at Scotiabank Arena. The Leafs' sloppy play continued, as they went back to the penalty kill midway through the frame.

Carolina did a great job of defending its own zone, as the forwards went deep in their own zone to help their defencemen with Ayres in net.

Keefe wasn’t happy with the play of his top lines, as he elected to play his third and fourth lines after back-to-back Toronto icings.

"It's another embarrassing night,” Keefe told reporters after the game. “Embarrassing nights shock the system a little bit. We are a prideful team. I don't think today was a lack of work ethic or anything like that, today was just our execution; we couldn't connect on a pass."

The Leafs couldn’t score on Ayres, as he helped backstop the Hurricanes to the win.

Next up for the Leafs is a visit to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on Tuesday night.