Carter Hutton couldn’t have asked for a better place to pick up his first NHL win.
The 27-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont., native made 38 saves in front of a sold-out MTS Centre crowd that included his parents and several of his closest friends to backstop the Nashville Predators to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night.
“They gave me the puck,” said the undrafted journeyman who was making just his second NHL start after spending four seasons in the AHL. “But I think the biggest thing we got was the two points.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz chose to rest starter Pekka Rinne after the team’s Saturday night win in Montreal, giving Hutton the chance to play in the NHL building that’s closest to his hometown.
“Playing behind Pekka, he’s a world-class goalie, so when I do get a chance to play I need to find ways to win hockey games. That’s what they brought me in for,” Hutton said, adding that waiting as long as he did for his first NHL victory made it extra special.
Patric Hornqvist scored the game-winner for the Predators (5-3-1), while Eric Nystrom and Matt Cullen added goals. Evander Kane had the lone Winnipeg goal.
Trotz didn’t think his team showed as much energy as it did the night before in Montreal, but gladly took a road win against a division opponent.
“We got good goaltending. We feel we can play good team defence most nights and bend but not break,” Trotz said. “Hopefully we can develop the offensive part of our game.”
The Predators recorded only seven shots in the second period, but made three of them count as they took control of the game. The win extended Nashville’s point streak to five games.
The Jets (4-5-0) failed for the third time this season to beat a team that arrived in Winnipeg in the wee hours after playing the night before.
Head coach Claude Noel didn’t think his team’s 39 shots provided nearly enough difficulty for Nashville’s inexperienced netminder.
“I think the shots would be an illusion. We needed to get secondary shots,” Noel said. “I didn’t think we created a whole lot.”
Nystrom opened the scoring 20 seconds into the second period with a shorthanded effort. The left-winger blocked a Dustin Byfuglien point shot, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and went the length of the ice before beating Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with a wrist shot for his second goal of the season.
“A shorthanded goal sucks the life out of your team a bit,” said Kane, who thought the Jets were playing a solid game until that point.
Hornqvist’s third of the year made it 2-0 when he intercepted a Pavelec clearing attempt in the corner, sent the puck toward the crease, and banked it into the empty net off the skate of Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian.
Cullen added to the lead with a high shot from the left faceoff circle at 14:57.
“We’re playing pretty well right now,” Cullen said. “We’re getting some good goaltending and playing some good hockey. We’re wearing teams down and have four lines that can skate.”
Pavelec stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced.
The Jets ruined Hutton’s shutout bid at 9:13 of the third period when Kane jammed in a loose puck for his fifth goal of the season.
Cullen had the best chance in a scoreless first period when he came out of the penalty box and scooped the puck up for a breakaway, only to be stopped by Pavelec. The shots were 15-12 Jets after one period.
The Jets wrap up their season-long six-game homestand on Tuesday against Washington. The Predators visit Minnesota on Tuesday before heading home for a rematch against Winnipeg on Thursday.
Notes: Rookie defenceman Seth Jones logged 26 minutes and 23 seconds of ice time for the Predators. a Forward Devin Setoguchi was back in the Winnipeg lineup after being a healthy scratch against St. Louis on Friday. a The game marked the first meeting between the franchises as Central Division rivals.Report Typo/Error