DETROIT (AP) Carter Hutton is playing the best hockey of his NHL career, helping the St. Louis Blues surge under new coach Mike Yeo.
Hutton made 25 saves for his second straight shutout and fourth in eight games, and the Blues beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 on Wednesday night.
Not bad for a backup.
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”I’ve never done anything like this at this level,” Hutton said.
He started the season with four career shutouts over the previous three years in Nashville, but has matched that total with a spectacular run.
Hutton, who signed in St. Louis as a free agent last summer, stopped all 26 shots he faced last week at Philadelphia and also shut out Pittsburgh and San Jose on the road in January. He is backing up Jake Allen, who has won three straight and had a shutout of his own last week.
”This has been an awesome stretch,” Hutton said. ”We’re the same team that we’ve always been, but Jake and I have been able to answer a lot of critics, and we’re getting a lot of help from our teammates.”
Ivan Barbashev scored 2:06 into the game and Jaden Schwartz had an empty-net goal in the final seconds for the Blues, who have won a season-high five straight games. They are 6-1 since Yeo replaced the fired Ken Hitchcock.
Detroit has dropped five straight games for the second time in less than a month, matching its season-long losing streak. The franchise looks like it will miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 1990, barring a remarkable turnaround from the last-place team in the Eastern Conference over the final 20-plus games.
Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek, though, insisted he hasn’t given up hope the reeling team could bounce back and win a handful of games in a row to improve its postseason positioning.
”It would be a game-changer for sure,” he said.
Barbashev, playing in his ninth NHL game, scored his second goal in four games and looked like a savvy veteran with lots of time and space afforded to him by lackluster defense.
”I came out of the corner and I was looking for a pass before they came after me, but they left me alone,” he said. ”That’s when I started thinking about a shot.”
The Russian center skated with the puck along the left boards and into the middle of the circle without much resistance before flicking a wrist shot that beat Mrazek on his blocker side.
”He had time,” Mrazek said. ”He skated in from the corner and he put it in a nice spot.”
Mrazek finished with 27 saves and didn’t get any help from his teammates at the other end of the rink – and sometimes even closer.
At one point, defenseman Brendan Smith had the puck near Mrazek and lost it – without any pressure from the Blues – and that led to St. Louis getting a scoring chance.
”We had some nonsensical giveaways without any pressure,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said.
With a little more than a minute left, Detroit pulled Mrazek for an extra skater and could not take advantage of the opportunity to extend the game to overtime. Instead, Schwartz scored an empty-net goal.
NOTES: The Red Wings played their first home game since team owner Mike Ilitch died Friday. They paid tribute to him with ”Mr. I” patches on their jerseys and the ice, a video montage and a moment of silence before the game. Players, coaches and executives paid their respects to the Ilitch family earlier in the day along with friends, family and the general public. … The Blues drafted Barbashev in the second round, No. 33 overall, three years ago. … Red Wings F Gustav Nyquist served his first of a six-game suspension handed down earlier in the day from the NHL for high-sticking Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon in the face.