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Recap: Canes, Emergency Back-Up Goaltender Ayres Top Maple Leafs

Injury-riddled Canes double up Leafs

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

TORONTO - Despite being decimated by injuries to their two goaltenders, the Carolina Hurricanes, with emergency back-up Dave Ayres in net, beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3.

Ayres made eight saves and the win in his relief appearance, while Warren Foegele netted two goals.

Here are five takeaways from an unreal night north of the border.

1. Do You Believe in Miracles?!

On the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, the Hurricanes penned their own version.

The Canes lost their two goaltenders and one of their top-pairing defensemen to injury - and still beat the third-place team in the Atlantic Division by a score of 6-3.

That's character. That's will. That's a defining moment for this Canes team.

"It was a proud effort for our team," Foegele said. "That was exciting. That was a lot of fun. Respect to Davey there."

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

"We started battling, played for him and played for our injured guys," Teuvo Teravainen said. "Memories for everybody."

Memories for a lifetime. For Ayres. For the Canes. For head coach Rod Brind'Amour.

"That's pretty special. I told the guys after the game, I thanked them because that just gave me an incredible memory. Just the way that game unfolded, how hard we were playing and then to have that happen," Brind'Amour said. "You kind of think, oh well. How is this going to end up? We just dug in and said we're not going to lose this game. For him, what a moment he'll have for the rest of his life. That's incredible. That's why you do this."

2. Goalie(s) Down

It's almost unthinkable what happened to the Hurricanes' goaltending duo in about 28 minutes of game time.

Early in the first period, Zach Hyman shoved Jaccob Slavin into James Reimer. It seemed somewhat innocuous at first, but Reimer remained on the ice, clearly experiencing discomfort. Head Athletic Trainer Doug Bennett trotted out to examine Reimer, who was slow to his feet, but the netminder elected to remain in the game. At the ensuing media timeout, Reimer left the game and was ruled out for the balance with a lower-body injury.

Enter Petr Mrazek.

With a little less than nine minutes left in the second period, Mrazek raced out of his crease to track down a loose puck. Kyle Clifford, who measures in at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, was also giving chase for the puck. What happened next was brutal, the two forces colliding violently. Mrazek lay on the ice, while the Canes and Leafs gathered to sort out what had just happened.

Bennett was back out on the ice to check on a goaltender, Mrazek slow to get up and skate off the ice.

"You don't want to see your goalies get hurt and definitely not like that," Foegele said. "That's unfortunate."

What now?

3. Meet the New Guy

Enter Dave Ayres.

Who?

Meet Ayres, the emergency back-up in Toronto for this sort of nuclear event. Ayres, 42, is the building operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre. Many describe him as a Zamboni driver, but these days?

"Not very often," he smiled. "That was accurate five or six years ago."

Ayres jumps into Leafs practices on occasion - "I'm supposed to practice tomorrow at 12:30," he said, laughing - and Saturday night, instead of being at work or helping coach a local youth team, he was the designated emergency back-up.

He had already dressed twice this season, and he served as the emergency back-up for the Charlotte Checkers earlier this month.

But actually being needed in a game? And for nearly half of a game with playoff implications in the last quarter of the season? On Hockey Night in Canada?

"Crazy," Foegele said, dumbfounded. "Coming in, probably dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. Give him credit. He made some huge saves for us."

Donning a white No. 90 Canes sweater, Ayres skated onto the Scotiabank Arena ice at the 11:19 mark of the second period. A couple stick taps from his new teammates, a couple warm-up shots and it was game time.

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

John Tavares gave him his "welcome to the show" moment, scoring on the first shot, and the Leafs pulled within a goal before the end of the second period.

"I thought I wasn't going to be nervous if it ever happened, but I was nervous for the whole second period, as you could tell. I couldn't stop a puck if I had to in the second," Ayres said. "I told the boys, 'When I come out in the third, I'll be ready to go.'"

The message in the second intermission was simple.

"Just tell him to have fun and relax," Foegele said. :He was probably a little bit nervous, but what a moment for him, something he'll never forget and something we won't either."

"These guys were awesome," Ayres said. "They said to me, 'Just have fun with it. Don't worry about how many goals go in. Just enjoy it. This is your moment. Have fun with it.'"

"I said, 'Stop the puck, buddy.' We told him we were going to go after it in the third. 'We're not going to sit back. We're going to try to protect you, but you're going to have to make a save or two and get us the win.' That's exactly what happened," Brind'Amour said. "I just love the way our guys accepted him and cheered him on. That's special to be a part of."

The Canes brought a 4-3 lead into the third period, and within the first minute, Foegele scored to stretch the advantage to 5-3.

They then dug in and suffocated a seemingly befuddled Leafs squad, which only mustered 10 shots on goal from the time Ayres entered the game until the final horn sounded.

Video: CAR@TOR: Ayres discusses appearing in first NHL game

"These guys played so well in the third," Ayres said. "They chipped it out. They kept it away from me. I said, 'Give me a couple shots, but not too many.'"

The Canes mobbed Ayres in the crease when the clock read 0.0. The 42-year-old was named the first star of the game and received a standing ovation. Once inside the Canes locker room, he was showered - figuratively with praise and literally with water.

"I had no idea I was going to get a shower before I got into the shower," he joked.

A night to remember for everyone.

"Right now, it's kind of hard to put into words," Ayres said.

4. More Injuries

Unfortunately, Reimer and Mrazek didn't mark the end of the injured list for the Canes.

Brett Pesce left in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return in the third.

The news after the game on all three was not positive, a bucket of cold water on an otherwise unbelievable night.

"Pesce is out for a long time. That's devastating for us," Brind'Amour said. "Reims is going to be out for a while. Petr, I don't know how long."

5. Everything Else

Oh, yeah.

A hockey game happened, and the Canes won it, scoring six goals. Foegele had two of them. Nino Niederreiter, Lucas Wallmark, Teuvo Teravainen and Martin Necas each scored. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov both tallied points to extend their point streaks - Aho matching his career-best 12-game point streak (11g, 7a) and Svechnikov setting a new career-long 10-gamer (5g, 7a).

Video: Emergency goalie helps Hurricanes defeat Maple Leafs

Contributions from everyone - Ayres at the top of that list - to secure an important two points in the standings, even when the odds were stacked against them.

"How our guys responded to the whole situation. No one felt like, ah, this is going to be terrible. No, rise up," Brind'Amour said. "I don't know if you'll ever see anything like that ever."

Up Next

The Hurricanes host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday before another Friday-Saturday back-to-back later in the week.

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