Playoffs Tonight: We’re tied going into Boston

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Game 3: Boston Bruins host Chicago Blackhawks (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN/Live Extra)
Series is tied at 1-1

You know two teams are evenly match when they play 185:53 minutes in just two games. However, the fact is that the Boston Bruins now have a slight edge by virtue of having more home games left. The Bruins haven’t lost a game at TD Garden since the first round, but that streak will have to end in order for Chicago to win the Cup.

“We’re extremely excited about the challenge,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We went into Detroit, knew we had to win a game. We put ourselves in a tough spot there. We’re excited about being on the road.”

They’re in this spot because the Blackhawks weren’t able to maintain the same level of pressure throughout Game 2. Chicago came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, but Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask stood tall and held Chicago to just one goal on 19 shots through 20 minutes.

If not for Rask’s contributions, the Bruins might have been out of the game early. Performances like that have become the norm for him in the postseason though. With a 1.73 GAA and .944 save percentage in 18 starts, he’s drawing comparisons to what Tim Thomas did for the Bruins during their 2011 Stanley Cup-winning run.

“I think it’s just as good. No doubt,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him.

“Tuukka’s done an outstanding job. To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”

Rask kept the potential for a comeback alive, but you also have to credit the rest of the team for evening the series. Chris Kelly scored his first goal of the playoffs and Daniel Paille netted the overtime winner, once again highlighting the scoring depth of this team.

Secondary scoring is one area the Blackhawks need to match Boston in, especially seeing as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa have combined for no goals and two assists in the Stanley Cup Final. That might motivate them to insert in Viktor Stalberg for Brandon Bollig after the latter logged a team-low 8:42 minutes and had a minus-one rating in Game 2.

“(Stalberg) could play,” Quenneville said when asked about the possible switch yesterday.

A move like that might be seen as a minor change, but in a battle of inches, everything matters.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”