Goalie Curtis McElhinney did what he could for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
“He gave us a great chance to win the game,” defenseman Justin Faulk said.
But McElhinney, in his first start of the series, couldn’t quite keep up with Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. McElhinney made 29 saves, and was more effective against the Bruins’ power play, but the Canes lost 2-1 to fall behind 3-0 in the series.
A change of scenery wasn’t enough for Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour. After a 5-2 loss in Game 1 and 6-2 in Game 2 in Boston, he decided to go with McElhinney in the net over Petr Mrazek.
Mrazek started the first nine games of the playoffs but the two goalies split the job during the regular season. When Mrazek got hurt in the second game of the series sweep of the New York Islanders, McElhinney stepped in and the team didn’t miss a beat.
Mrazek returned for the start of this series and Boston had flooded him with 10 consecutive goals, between the third period of Game 1 through the third period of Game 2.
McElhinney, the unflappable 35-year-old veteran, had won his first two playoff starts (both against New York) and Brind’Amour was ready for a different look back in Raleigh.
“Just a change,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ve been happy with both guys, so it’s not really that hard of a decision.”
McElhinney didn’t have to do all that much work in the first period on Tuesday night. The Canes took 11 of the first 12 shots of the game and had four power-play opportunities in the first period.
Rask, as McElhinney noted, “put on a show” in the first period to keep the Canes off the scoreboard.
“We were rolling, were playing great and had some good looks,” McElhinney said. “We just weren’t able to find the back of the net.”
After being out-shot 20 to 6 in the first period, the Bruins struck quickly to start the second period. Brock McGinn couldn’t clear the zone and Joakim Nordstrom set up Chris Wagner at the doorstep at 1:21 in the second period for the 1-0 lead.
The Bruins’ power play, which went from “tremendous machine” status in Boston to merely mortal in Raleigh, conjured up the second goal.
Boston finished 1 for 5 on the power play, after going 4 for 7 in the first two games. Brad Marchand’s shot at 6:26 deflected in off the left hand of Carolina defenseman Calvin de Haan for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s tough, obviously, (Marchand) makes a move into the slot there and you kind of lose sight of it,” McElhinney said. “It was kind of an unfortunate bounce.”
Calvin de Haan, who scored the Canes’ lone goal, took responsibility for it.
“It went off my glove and in the net,” de Haan said. “I tried to get in the way and it was just kind of unlucky.”
The Canes got a goal back from a hard de Haan shot, off a faceoff set at 13:48 in the second period, but couldn’t get another past Rask.
McElhinney stopped the seven shots he faced in the third period. Brind’Amour was pleased with how the decision worked out, just not the result.
“Mac was great,” Brind’Amour said. “He gave us a chance tonight and that’s all you can ask. The other guy was pretty special on the other end. It was a good battle there.”