It took Carter Hutton 27 years to win his first NHL game.
It took him just four days to win his second.
On Thursday night, Hutton made his second start of the season for the Nashville Predators as they took on the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena.
“They are a really good team,” Hutton said. “They have some pretty dynamic forwards and come with a lot of speed. I think we saw that tonight.”
Hutton’s only other start this season had come on Sunday against the same Jets team. In that game, he held the Jets to just one goal and took home his first NHL victory.
On Thursday, Hutton held Winnipeg to 2 goals as the Predators knocked off the Jets 3-2 in overtime.
For Hutton, the start came as a bit of a surprise, as he likely expected to have backup duty tonight until starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was placed on injured reserve after coming down with what has been described as a “spontaneous bacterial infection” in his hip.
“Obviously, (Pekka) getting hurt like that is a tremendous loss,” Hutton said. “He’s a world class goalie, but for me, it’s just hockey. I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing and nothing really changes for me.”
Thrust into a starting role against a divisional opponent, Hutton saved 34 of 36 Jets shots on his way to his second career victory.
“For me, personally, I approach it the same way,” Hutton said. “When I get a chance to play, I have to win. There are a few more eyes on me with Pekka being out and a little more pressure, but being a goalie, you’re not going to hide from pressure anyway. It kind of comes with the job.”
With 3:01 left in the final period and Nashville winning 2-1, Blake Wheeler put a shot by Hutton to tie the game at 2. Shortly afterwards, Mike Fisher went to the box and Nashville had to kill off a penalty as the minutes dwindled. The game went to overtime and with just 17 seconds left on the clock, Craig Smith scored to give Nashville the 3-2 win.
“I had a blast,” Hutton said. “You have to have fun playing this game and we’re fortunate enough to be able to play it. It was pretty exciting. Obviously, I gave up that goal late and that’s something we don’t want to do, but being able to win in overtime, (Smith) with that beauty – I was pretty pumped.”
Hutton’s teammates, meanwhile, seem comfortable moving forward with him in the starting role.
“I’m not really a goaltending coach, but he made more saves than the other guy and we scored more goals,” Shea Weber said. “As long as he keeps doing that and plays the puck well, he’s talking out there and doing everything we need him to, he’s good.”
“Hutton really stepped up tonight and he played well,” Craig Smith said. “We played good in front of him, but he’s also a pretty good goalie.”
Barry Trotz was also pleased with Hutton’s performance – particularly the explosiveness he displayed between the pipes.
“He’s really bought into what Might (Korn) is selling,” Trotz said. “You saw a number of those saves be very explosive coming across. I thought he was pretty square to the puck. From my perspective, they put a lot of rubber towards him and he handled it just fine.”
Hutton’s 34 save outing came after he saved 38 of 39 shots on Sunday night. Altogether, Hutton has seen 101 shots this season and stopped 97 of them.
“I thought I was seeing the puck well,” Hutton said. “Early on, they came in waves and got some shots and I was able to get in a groove. From there, I thought we settled down a little after the first period and started playing our game.”
Nashville called up Magnus Hellberg from Milwaukee to take the other goaltender slot. While Barry Trotz has given reason to believe that he will alternate the two – or at least not use Hutton as exclusively as the Predators tend to use Rinne – Hutton may have made a case to be the ipso facto netminder in Rinne’s absence.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day, shot-by-shot, period-by-period. You kind of slow things down,”. Hutton said. “If you look at the big picture, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially since I’ve only played a couple of games. I’m just trying to break it down and take things day-by-day.”
After 3 total games this season, Hutton is now 2-0 with a 1.37 GAA and a .959 save percentage.
“It’s a good start,” Hutton said. “Just because you start right doesn’t mean anything. We have to keep going and find ways to earn two points. I think working hard every day for me is a good recipe.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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