Carter Hutton couldn’t have asked for a better place to get his first NHL win.
The 27-year-old Ontario native made 38 saves in front of a sold-out crowd that included his parents and several close friends, leading the Nashville Predators past the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Sunday night.
”They gave me the puck,” said the undrafted journeyman who was making his second NHL start after spending four seasons in the AHL. ”But I think the biggest thing we got was the two points.”
Eric Nystrom, Patric Hornqvist and Matt Cullen scored for Nashville.
Predators coach Barry Trotz chose to rest top goalie Pekka Rinne after the team’s victory Saturday night in Montreal, giving Hutton a 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.
Evander Kane had the lone goal for Winnipeg.
Trotz didn’t think his club 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 defense most nights and bend but not break,” he said. ”Hopefully we can develop the offensive part of our game.”
The Predators had 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 failed for the third time this season to beat a team that arrived in Winnipeg in the wee hours of the morning after playing the night before.
Winnipeg 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 short-handed effort. The left wing blocked Dustin Byfuglien’s point shot, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and went the length of the ice before beating goalie Ondrej Pavelec with a wrist shot for his second of the season.
”A short-handed 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 season made it 2-0 when he intercepted Pavelec’s clearing attempt in the corner, sent the puck toward the crease and banked it into the empty net off the skate of Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian.
Cullen added to the lead with a high shot from the left 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.”
Winnipeg 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 up the puck for a breakaway, only to be stopped by Pavelec. Winnipeg held a 15-12 edge in shots after one period.
The Jets wrap up their season-long six-game homestand Tuesday night against Washington. The Predators visit Minnesota on Tuesday before heading home for a rematch against Winnipeg on Thursday.
NOTES: Pavelec stopped 23 shots. . . . Rookie D Seth Jones logged 26 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time for the Predators. . . . Jets forward Devin Setoguchi was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against St. Louis on Friday. . . . The game marked the first meeting between the franchises as Central Division rivals.