Hurricanes top Islanders to take commanding 3-0 series lead

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The Carolina Hurricanes were probably a little fortunate to win the first two games of their Round 2 series against the New York Islanders, and they knew it, too.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. To win a Stanley Cup you need to steal a couple of wins along the way when you are not at your best, and to hear captain Justin Williams talk on Wednesday before the game they all knew they needed to be better in Game 3.

They were, and it was Williams once again scoring a big postseason goal to help lift them to victory.

The Hurricanes were clearly the better team in their 5-2 win to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, pushing the Islanders to the bring of elimination.

Williams scored the game-winner midway through the third period, finishing a great play that started with Sebastian Aho knocking Robin Lehner‘s clearing attempt out of mid-air behind the net.

It was one of a handful of highlight reel plays the Hurricanes made on the net and can be seen in the video above.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The craziest sequence came midway through the second period when Curtis McElhinney, making his first playoff start at the age of 35, made an incredible toe save on the penalty kill to rob Jordan Eberle of what looked to be a sure goal. Just a few moments later, Justin Faulk came out of the penalty box, caught a lob-pass at the blue line, quickly dropped it to the ice, and beat Lehner on a slick move to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.

The Islanders quickly responded with a Joshua Bailey goal to tie the score, but they were never able to get the go-ahead goal and were unable to generate any sustained zone time against a Hurricanes’ defense that played its best game of the series and one of its best games of the playoffs.

This performance came after Williams pretty much challenged his team to be better than they had been earlier in the day.

“I think I take the fact that we grinded out two wins, which is great,” said Williams, via Sportsnet’s Eric Engels. “I also take out the fact that I’m a realist and we haven’t played very well. I think that is pretty relevant, and tonight we need to show the Islanders what we’re all about. This is a big game for us. A statement game. A game where we can obviously not put them away but get pretty darned close to the goal that we want. So, in front of our home crowd, we’re going to be ready to go and we’re going to show them what Carolina hockey is tonight.”

They did all of that on Wednesday.

McElhinney, who got the win in Game 2 in relief of an injured Petr Mrazek, stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced to record his second consecutive win.

Teuvo Teravainen scored two goals by starting the scoring in the first period and then adding one of the Hurricanes’ two empty-net goals in the final minute of regulation.

Aho finished with a goal and an assist.

After eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in Round 1, the Hurricanes are now one win from taking their stunning postseason run to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Islanders, after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, are one loss away suffering the same fate if they can not get a win on Friday night.

Game 4 of Hurricanes-Islanders is Friday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.