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Inside a Goalie Emergency with Jason Muzzatti

How the Canes goaltending coach navigated a hectic, unique experience

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

Carolina Hurricanes goaltending coach Jason Muzzatti watched with everyone else as both of the team's goaltenders were injured in the span of about 30 minutes of game time on Saturday night in Toronto.

It was unthinkable to watch it all unfold, really. Then what? Who was this Dave Ayres guy? And what options did the Canes possibly have in such a critical game at a critical point in the regular season?

Here's how Muzzatti navigated a hectic night, one of the most unique experiences of his career.

Michael Smith: Could you have imagined anything like that?

Jason Muzzatti: No. That was definitely one for the ages, without a doubt.

Smith: I'm guessing you have never been a part of anything like that before at any level.

Muzzatti: The closest I came to that was in the minors when I was playing. I got into a fight with Garth Snow, and I got kicked out of the game. Then there was a brawl, and the other goalie came down. There was still time left, so what I was wondering was if those two goalies had fought what they would have done. There were no emergencies. I always wonder what would have happened if those two had been ejected at that point.

Smith: So, you're upstairs on press row and you see James Reimer go down. Then you see Petr Mrazek go down. What's that process like?

Muzzatti: I needed to continue watching when Pete came in. Obviously I checked in with Reimer at the end of the (first) period, but when Pete went down, I immediately came down. I just wanted to get a little clarification on what our options were and what was going on. I'd be lying if I didn't think there was a possibility I'd have to go in. I really wasn't totally sure.

Smith: How long has it been since you last had pads on?

Muzzatti: I've had pads on to teach goalies, but yeah, I haven't stopped a puck in a long time.

Video: CAR@TOR: Ayres makes history as emergency backup

Smith: So, you don't get to meet the emergency goaltender in each city, like, they don't introduce you to them just in case?

Muzzatti: No, it's such a long shot. I went down to try to get to know him a little bit, ask him a couple questions. I didn't know his background. He was relatively calm, maybe a little too loose. Give him credit. He stayed calm.

Smith: What do you tell him right before he goes in?

Muzzatti: I didn't want to disrespect him because I didn't know his background. We're sitting there in the locker room going, 'This guy's about to go in an NHL game.' I was just trying to think of some basic things to focus on to get dialed in. We just talked about a couple things. I didn't want to overload him or anything. When he came in between periods, both Reimer and I just talked about a couple things, something to dial in on and focus on. He just said, 'Hey, you know, I'll get 'er going here. I just had to get warmed up a little bit.' It's an amazing story.

Smith: Did you watch the end of the second period from downstairs?

Muzzatti: I was down in the locker room because we had a lot of possibilities going on. Definitely learned all the ins and outs of what happens when you lose a couple goalies and what the options are. None of us could have gone in. It would have had to have been the second emergency back-up or we put in a player.

Smith: Could Ryan Dzingel could have dressed?

Muzzatti: He was one option. Quite honestly, Reimer deserves a lot of credit. He was willing to pop back in, but he wasn't in a position to do it. We were trying to strategize a little bit on how he could compensate for what he was dealing with just if it started to get out of hand, but it never did. We kept a close eye and watched from the locker room.

Smith: You see the first two shots go in. What are you thinking then?

Muzzatti: I'm thinking it's probably going to be about 15-3. That's what I'm thinking. But what it did was it challenged our guys to step up. That's probably the most amazing thing that went on tonight. It's a great individual story, but we rallied.

Video: Rod Brind'Amour's post game locker room speech.

Smith: How amazing was it to see the team rally?

Muzzatti: It was phenomenal. We were fighting so hard. [Reimer] was such a long shot. If Dave fell apart and we still had a one-goal lead, we would have maybe considered it, but thankfully that didn't happen. Give Reimer a lot of credit for being willing to do whatever he was going to have to possibly do. He definitely shouldn't have gone back in. I'm glad it worked out this way.

Smith: What do you say to Dave after the game?

Muzzatti: I just congratulated him. It was great to see. I heard his background, someone who has received a kidney transplant. That's phenomenal. Just a happy, good-natured goalie like most of us are. It was a nice little reception when he came into the room by the fellas. Like Roddy said, that's a classic memory moment. That's something we'll never forget for the rest of our lives.

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