The Carolina Hurricanes used an emergency backup goalie and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs after James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were injured during the game Saturday.
David Ayres was called on to play goalie for the Hurricanes and the 42-year-old allowed two goals on three shots in the final 8:41 of the second period before saving all seven shots he faced in the third to get the 6-3 win.
"It's been great," Ayres told Sportsnet. "Obviously that second period was a little shaky, but I told the boys in the dressing room once we come out for the third I'll be settled down and ready to win this one."
Ayres, who reportedly is the Zamboni driver for Toronto of the American Hockey League, had never played in an NHL game.
"It was awesome," he said. "Obviously time of my life out there. I've been on this ice many times without fans, put fans in the mix it's a whole different game obviously, but, hey once in a lifetime, I'll take it."
Reimer left in the first period after he was injured in a collision with Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who was pushed into him by Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman. Mrazek left in the second period after being hit by Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford far out of his net while playing the puck. Reimer made one save playing the first 6:10, and Mrazek made 14 saves on 15 shots before leaving 11:19 into in the second period.
"Actually I got a bunch of text messages that said, 'Get in there,' and someone came into the room and like, 'Hey, you'd better get dressed; hey, you're going out there," Ayres said. "I was a little shocked, but loving it."
Ayres allowed a goal to John Tavares 2:17 after coming in on the first shot he faced, then one to Pierre Engvall 1:34 later on the second shot. He made his first save on a shot by Auston Matthews with 1:07 left.
"It's so hard for an NHL goalie to come back after an injury. Your first game feels like you've never played before," Reimer said. "For him, for what he did tonight, he's a legend."
Carolina scored the only two goals in the third period and outshot Toronto 9-7. Ayres made his final save at the buzzer.
"These guys were awesome," Ayres said. "Actually the spot that settled me down, one of the guys (Erik Haula) said to me, 'Just have fun. We don't care if you let 10 goals in.' That settled me right down and it was great."
Ayres has filled in at Maple Leafs practices for the past eight years and has been the emergency backup on call at Scotiabank Arena for the past three years, according to the Toronto Sun.
"He's got great energy, he comes to the rink every day, just wants to work and wants to be a part of it," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. "Whether it's with the Marlies or the Leafs, he's always there when you need him. There's probably not an emergency goaltender anywhere in pro hockey that has seen as many pro shots as this guy who's in pretty much every day getting work. It feels terrible given that he's on the other side today from our end of it. On a personal note, you can't help but feel good for the guy."
Ayres is the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut. Hugh Lehman was 41 when he won his for the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 17, 1926.
The Blackhawks were the last NHL team to have to use an emergency goalie. Scott Foster, a 36-year-old accountant who played goalie at Western Michigan University, made seven saves on seven shots against the Winnipeg Jets on March 29, 2018. Chicago won 6-2 after Anton Forsberg was injured before the game and Colin Delia left the game in the third period.
Jorge Alves played goalie as a 37-year-old emergency backup for the Hurricanes against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 31, 2016 after Eddie Lack became ill before the game. Alves played the final eight seconds of a 3-1 loss.
Eric Semborski almost got into a game as a 23-year-old emergency backup for the Blackhawks against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 3, 2016. After Corey Crawford needed an appendectomy, Scott Darling played for Chicago in the 3-1 loss. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville pulled Darling with 1:31 remaining in the third period for an extra attacker, and after the game told Semborski that if the Flyers had scored he would have gone in to finish the game.