Emergency goaltender David Ayres became the oldest netminder to win a NHL game on his debut on Saturday night after the Zamboni driver stopped eight shots in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The 42-year-old Canadian Ayres, whose full-time job is operating the ice cleaning machine for the Toronto Marlies, entered the contest after the visiting Hurricanes lost two goalies to injury.
“I had the time of my life out there,” said Ayres.
Carolina’s starting goalie James Reimer left the game in the first period and his replacement Petr Mrazek exited halfway through the second. That meant Ayres, who was watching the game from the stands, had to report for duty. League rules state it is the responsibility of the home team to make sure an emergency goalie is available to play for either team. So Ayers changed into his pads and pulled on a Hurricanes’ jersey to face the Maple Leafs, who were one of the pre-season favourites to win the Stanley Cup.
“Someone came in the room and said to get ready. I was a little shocked but I loved it,” he said.
With the score 4-1 in favour of the Hurricanes, Mrazek was injured halfway through the game when Toronto’s Kyle Clifford crashed into him as the goaltender came out of his net to play the puck. Clifford was slapped with a two minute penalty. Another collision in the first period knocked Reimer out of the contest.
Clifford was serving a charging penalty after he ran into Mrazek. Ayres took over after a delay and Toronto scored twice. John Tavares scored his 24th of the season at 13:36 and Pierre Engvall scored his eighth at 15:10.
Clifford and Hurricane’s Joel Edmundson received fighting majors later in the game.
Ayres’ surprise appearance brings back memories of another emergency goaltender, Scott Foster, a full-time accountant who stepped in to play for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2018. Foster, then 36 years old, stopped all seven shots he faced against the Winnipeg Jets.
Meanwhile, Rookie Igor Shesterkin made 44 saves, Jesper Fast scored twice and the New York Rangers continued their surge with a 3-2 victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Shesterkin made 21 saves in the opening 20 minutes, when the Rangers were outshot 22-3. He stopped Evander Kane twice on breakaways in the opening 40 minutes and made 10 saves on Sharks defenseman Brent Burns.
Shesterkin won his seventh straight game and improved to 9-1 since making his NHL debut Jan. 7. He also made two point-blank stops on Patrick Marleau before Fast scored the tiebreaking goal with 13:06 remaining in the third.
The decisive play started when Ryan Strome won an offensive zone faceoff from Barclay Goodrow and passed to Jacob Trouba. Trouba took a long shot, Fast then got the rebound and pushed the puck past San Jose goaltender Aaron Dell and by defenseman Burns’ stick.
Fast also scored New York’s first goal as the Rangers won for the seventh time in eight games and 10th time in 13 games. Mika Zibanejad also scored for New York, which entered Saturday five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Joe Thornton scored his 416th and 417th career goals for San Jose, which may trade him by Monday’s trade deadline.
Dell made 30 saves for the Sharks, who lost for the ninth time in 14 games.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead with 10:25 left in the first when Artemi Panarin slid the puck under Dell and Fast converted the tap-in. Thornton tied it with 2:05 left in the first by putting a wrist shot from the right circle on a rush by Shesterkin. He then gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with 6:13 left in the second when the puck deflected off his right skate after Shesterkin made a save on Burns.
New York tied the score with a brilliant defensive play by Panarin late in the second. Panarin needed one hand to knock the puck off Kane’s stick behind the net and made a slick feed to Zibanejad, who buried the puck over Dell’s pad into the left side of the net for his 28th goal of the season.
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