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Second Round

McElhinney set to make history in Game 3 for Hurricanes

Will face Islanders, become oldest goalie to start first playoff game

by Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Curtis McElhinney will become the oldest goalie to make his first Stanley Cup Playoff start when the Carolina Hurricanes host the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PNC Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

McElhinney (35 years, 343 days) will be 37 days older than Les Binkley, who made his first start for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Oakland Seals on April 8, 1970. 

In Game 2 on Sunday, McElhinney relieved starter Petr Mrazek, who sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of the Hurricanes' 2-1 win. McElhinney made 17 saves to help Carolina to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

"I don't think at this point in my career anything surprises me," said McElhinney, who made previous playoff relief appearance for the Calgary Flames in 2009 and Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018. "I've been through so much. I'm grateful for the opportunity I do have right now. It's one of those moments you check off your bucket list. Just one more challenge to look forward to."

Mrazek is possible for Game 4, Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. For his part, McElhinney said he will roll with whatever circumstances dictate.

"It's just gas and go," he said. "I've been around long enough and I've been thrown into those situations before. The playoff atmosphere is a little bit different, but the game itself is the same. I've felt pretty good all year long."

Video: CAR@NYI, Gm2: McElhinney makes back-to-back saves

McElhinney was claimed off waivers from the Maple Leafs on Oct. 2, two days before Carolina's regular-season opener. He went on to start 33 games, his biggest workload in 11 NHL seasons. He was 20-11-2 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

McElhinney won his first three starts for the Hurricanes and put together three four-game winning streaks to help earn the confidence of a young team that played well in front of him.

"Just the way he carries himself, he's a pretty calm cat back there," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "Stuff fazes him, but nobody really knows what that is. You can't see it. That's calming to other guys on the team to know that he's all right and he's still dialed in. We like that."

Video: CAR@NYI, Gm2: Mrazek exits with apparent injury

Some of McElhinney's serenity is the result of his career path. He has played for seven NHL teams and never took the reins as a full-time starter. 

"I fought against it for a long time," he said. "For anybody who gets to this level, you have the belief that you're more than capable of doing a job and being a starter. Sometimes accepting a role is what turns the tide. That was the case for me. Once I kind of embraced that role, things just started to click."

That evolution is what made him attractive to the Hurricanes. Last season with the Maple Leafs, he was 11-5-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .934 save percentage. 

Brind'Amour is pleased to see the veteran goalie get the chance to start in the playoffs.

"He's deserves this time," Brind'Amour said. "Obviously I hope he does well for a lot of reasons. The guy deserves it. He's been a pro everywhere he's been. You're rooting for him for sure."

McElhinney will make his first start since April 6, when he made 28 saves in a 4-3 win in Carolina's regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Flyers. The long days in between starts are commonplace now, but the moment that lies ahead is special.

"You look forward to opportunities like this," McElhinney said. "It's been a long time coming for myself. I'm excited about it."

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