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Ayres Apparent: Emergency backup leads Hurricanes to win

Where to start? I don’t even know.

Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

If you expected a Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs match-up to be crazy, then you got just what you ordered. But nothing could have prepared for this. And frankly, this one will be talked about around the water cooler for a long time.

The final score was 6-3 Hurricanes. Warren Foegele scored twice, and Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov extended their point streaks. But nothing in the world could top the story that played out on Hockey Night in Canada, as emergency backup goaltender David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies, became the first emergency backup in NHL history to record a win, and was the oldest player in league history to make his debut, topping Lester Patrick, who played goal while coaching the New York Rangers In 1927 at age 41.

If you’re breaking records that were set nearly a century ago, yeah, this was one for the ages.

The Maple Leafs got on the board first as Alex Kerfoot scored his ninth goal of the season. James Reimer was ruled out in the first period with a lower-body injury after Jaccob Slavin was shoved into him and Petr Mrazek came into relieve Reimer.

In the second period, Lucas Wallmark tied the game at one after cleaning up a loose puck after a scramble in front of Leafs goalie Fredrik Andersen. Later in the period, Petr Mrazek charged out to play a puck similar to how he did against the Rangers on Friday and collided with Kyle Clifford. Mrazek went down and also left the game.

With more than half the game remaining, it was Ayres Time.

His highest level of play was junior-B for the Norwood Vipers of the ACH in 2014-15. In a remarkable bit of irony, Ayres served as the emergency back-up goalie for the Charlotte Checkers against the Toronto Marlies on February 1st.

Sebastian Aho quickly provided insurance to put the Hurricanes up 4-1. However, Toronto would quickly respond. John Tavares fired a quick wrister from the slot past Ayers to bring the game within two goals. During the play, Brett Pesce left the game with an injury, dropping the Canes down to five defensemen in front of Ayers.

Things seemingly turned from bad to worse as Pierre Engvall scored to bring the game within one. With less than two minutes remaining, Joel Edmundson squared up with Clifford for making contact with Mrazek earlier in the period. Both players landed a few punches. The Hurricanes held onto the lead heading into the third period.

Just 53 seconds into the third period, Warren Foegele scored his second of the night to put the Hurricanes up 5-3. After a scramble in front and a failed clear, Martin Necas cleaned up a loose puck minutes later to put the Hurricanes up 6-3. The Canes held tight throughout the third period, limiting chances for the Maple Leafs to get shots on Ayres. The EBUG stopped all seven shots he faced in the third period and came away with the victory and title of “Carolina Hurricanes Legend.”

In the short term, the Hurricanes come out with a win, two points in the standings and what may be the story of the year. But reality may hit in the morning if Pesce, Mrazek and Reimer are all out long term and the Hurricanes are forced to scramble to save their season. Brind’Amour said that he doesn’t expect Pesce or Reimer back anytime soon, but did not have an update on Mrazek.

The Hurricanes next game is Tuesday at home against the Dallas Stars.

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