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Conference Final

McElhinney plays well for Hurricanes despite loss to Bruins in Game 3

Makes 29 saves in first start of Eastern Final for Carolina, which moved to brink of elimination

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Curtis McElhinney tried his best to save the sinking Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

McElhinney started for the Hurricanes against the Boston Bruins in Game 3 at PNC Arena on Tuesday, replacing Petr Mrazek, and made 29 saves, but it wasn't enough as Carolina lost 2-1 and fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-7 series.

Game 4 is here on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"Curtis gave us a chance to win and that is all we can ask from him," said defenseman Calvin de Haan, who scored the only Hurricanes goal at 13:48 of the second period to cut it to 2-1. "We gave ourselves a chance tonight, but at the end of the day, we didn't score enough goals. It's as simple as that."

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

McElhinney said he was told Monday that he would start, the day after Mrazek allowed six goals on 25 shots in a 6-2 loss in Game 2. 

It was clear that Mrazek, who has a 5.02 goals-against average and .808 save percentage against the Bruins, was not the same goalie when he returned for the start of the conference final, 11 days after he sustained a lower-body injury against the New York Islanders in Game 2 of the second round.

As a result, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour felt the change had to be made to try to salvage the series even though McElhinney had not played since making 26 saves to eliminate the Islanders in Game 4 on May 3.

"We have been happy with both guys, so it's not that hard a decision," Brind'Amour said. "We rotated all year (Mrazek started 40 games in the regular season; McElhinney started 33) and we actually thought about rotating at the start of the playoffs because why wouldn't you, it was working. But Petr got hot there, and we rode him out."

Mrazek won four of the final five games against the Washington Capitals in in the first round and opened the second round against the Islanders with a shutout to cement his place as the starter.

And even though McElhinney won three games in Mrazek's absence, Brind'Amour felt he had to go back to Mrazek when he was cleared.  

"I don't like taking guys out because they got injured, so we gave him a chance and then we kind of went back to let's just rotate again," Brind'Amour said. "[McElhinney] was great. He gave us a chance tonight and that's all you can ask. The guy down the other end was pretty special, so it was a good battle there."

Video: BOS@CAR, Gm3: McElhinney denies DeBrusk, Carlo

The other guy was Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who made 35 saves, including 20 in a first period that was dominated from the first shift by the home team.

"We came out as a team and were just rolling, getting some good looks, but just weren't able to find the back of the net," said McElhinney, who has a 1.70 GAA and .943 save percentage in four Stanley Cup Playoff games. "It's tough to just sit there and watch all the action at the other end, but got into a little bit of it in the second."

The Bruins opened the scoring 1:21 into the second period when Chris Wagner scored on a tap in that provided McElhinney with little opportunity to make the save. At 6:28, Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal to make it 2-0 when his backhand in the slot deflected off de Haan and beat McElhinney five-hole.

"It went off my glove and into the net," de Haan said. "I tried to get in the way, a bit unlucky. I tried to put my body in front of it and of course it goes five-hole."

McElhinney stopped each of the next 20 shots he faced, but his teammates could not manage anything offensively after de Haan's goal got Carolina within one.

"I think [Brind'Amour] is just trying to mix things up a little bit and, obviously, we responded," McElhinney said when asked why he thought the change was made. "We had a great first, had some good opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net, and [Rask] was great for them, made some big saves for them.

"He was putting on a show tonight." 

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