After managing only one goal against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek in the first 90 minutes of their second-round playoff series, the Islanders had to think they got a break when an injury forced Mrazek to leave Game 2 of the series early in the second period Sunday.
But backup goalie Curtis McElhinney, who had watched all seven games of the Hurricanes’ first-round series win over Washington and hadn’t played since April 6, the final day of the regular season, stopped all 17 shots he faced as the Hurricanes came back to beat the Isles, 2-1.
That gave Carolina a 2-0 lead in the series, which now shifts to Raleigh, North Carolina, for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.
“Mac’s been great all year, so there was no ‘oh, no, we’ve got to put that guy in!’ ’’ Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said of McElhinney, who took over when Mrazek left at 6:27 of the second period with a lower-body injury.
McElhinney, who played 33 games in the regular season and had a career-high 20 wins (20-11-2), got the job done.
“I had a couple of shots early on and it allowed me to get into the game there, so that was nice,’’ McElhinney said. “And . . . I was seeing pucks early on, too.’’
A career backup, McElhinney became the first goalie whose first three playoff appearances came for different teams (Calgary in 2009, Toronto in 2018). He is the third-oldest goalie (35 years, 340 days) to get his first NHL playoff win, one of only five goalies to earn their first playoff win at 35 or older, and the first to do so since Eddie Johnston in 1972.
Mrazek, who had stopped nine of 10 shots, went to the bench after the Hurricanes failed to score on a five-on-three power play in the second period. He slammed his glove and stick, then left for the locker room. McElhinney entered and former Stony Brook goaltender Todd Scarola got dressed as the emergency backup.
McElhinney said he knew he was going to have to come into the game as soon as he saw Mrazek skate to the bench.
“He just looked a little off,’’ McElhinney said. “He was shaking his one leg, so he wasn’t right, and it was a matter of grabbing my helmet and making sure I was ready to go.’’
McElhinney had some luck on his side Sunday. Devon Toews had a goal disallowed and the Islanders hit the post twice and the crossbar late in the third period.
“They did a great job of just getting bodies out in front,’’ McElhinney said of the Isles. “They can shoot it from up top, that’s for sure.’’
Curtis McElhinney became the fifth goaltender in NHL history to record his first postseason win at age 35 or older.
Player, Team Age (Years-Days) Year
Lester Patrick, Rangers 44-99 1928
Eddie Johnston, Bos. 36-136 1972
Curtis McElhinney, Caro. 35-340 2019
Les Binkley, Pitt. 35-306 1970
Hal Winkler, Bos. 35-9 1927