Nashville Predators goaltender Carter Hutton had a whirlwind of a day. With the news coming out Thursday morning that Pekka Rinne would be missing a minimum of four weeks with a bacterial infection in his hip, Hutton is going to have a lot more responsibility with this team than he otherwise would have.
He responded well on Thursday night and led the Predators to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Thursday night’s victory marks the second time that Hutton has defeated the Jets in the span of five days.
“[Pekka] getting hurt like that is obviously a tremendous loss,” Hutton said. “He’s a world-class goalie, but for me it’s just hockey. I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and nothing really changes for me.”
Hutton allowed two goals on 36 shots and actually saw his save percentage on the season go down. He now has an astonishing .959 save percentage and a 1.37 GAA in three games played and is 2-0-0 on the season. He’s allowed only four goals against on 97 shots by the opposition and was very good in net again on Thursday night for the Predators.
“He was really good,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. “It was sort of a game of streaks. We came out a little bit flat-footed. Winnipeg tried to jump on us, and I think they were out-shooting us seven or eight to nothing, and then the second half of the period we out-shot them probably eight to one or something like that. It seemed to be that way the whole game.”
Winnipeg has tested Hutton in the two games he’s played against him this season. The Jets put up 39 shots against Hutton on Sunday night and 36 on Thursday in Nashville. Anthony Peluso was able to get one past Hutton in the second period, but just barely. Peluso went behind the net and got a wrap-around chance when Hutton launched himself from post to post and got his stick on it. The goal was originally waved off, but replay showed the puck barely crossed the goal line, and it tied the game for Winnipeg.
Blake Wheeler scored in the third period as well to send the game to overtime on a play Hutton had no chance on, but the 27-year-old backstop was able to survive the tests thrown his way by Winnipeg.
“They are a really good team,” Hutton said. “They have some pretty dynamic forwards coming with a lot of speed. I think we’ve seen that tonight there with those couple plays where those guys come wide and even the goal was a quick to the middle and then pop wide, and [Peluso] was coming with full steam and he beat me getting back to the post. They’re a good team. I thought we battled, and it was kind of back and forth, especially with some of the penalties and stuff. We were able to persevere in overtime.”
The Predators are going to be in survival mode over the next month for a couple of reasons. No. 1, their world-class goaltender is out and it’s yet to be seen if Hutton and Magnus Hellberg can shoulder the load for that amount of time. The second reason is that after Saturday night’s game against St. Louis in Nashville, the Predators are going to embark on a seven-game road trip ranging from coast-to-coast.
However, the Predators have seen this sort of situation play out before at the goaltending position. Goalies have gone down, and the backups have stepped up to be more than adequate replacements in their absences in the past.
The Predators are hoping that’s the case again with Hutton and Hellberg.
“Some of our greatest stories we’ve ever had in Nashville have been based on an injury, and especially in goal,” Trotz said. “You look at [Mike] Dunham, we found [Tomas] Vokoun. Vokoun we found [Chris] Mason. You go down the line; Dan Ellis. At varied positions, we’ve been able to do that. People are going to go down, and if you want to be a good team, when people go down everybody steps up. Everybody does what they need to, and you become a very good team.”