Carter Hutton made 35 saves and the Nashville Predators claimed a 4-1 win over the visiting Dallas Stars on Monday night.
Originally signed this summer to backup Pekka Rinne, Hutton, a 28-year-old rookie, has stayed even-keeled through a number of changes.
The victory was Hutton’s third win in his last three starts, the makings of a foundation Nashville has lacked since Rinne exited the lineup with a hip infection in October.
“Hutton made some big saves and that’s what good goaltending does–it changes momentum,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “I can’t remember a team getting 35 shots on us in awhile. But we felt pretty comfortable. You’re on the bench going: ‘They’re throwing a lot at the net, but it’s fine cause he’s stopping everything.'”
Hutton was back in the Predators net tonight after newly-acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk made his first career start for Nashville on Saturday night: a 5-4 loss that did little to solidify a shaky situation surrounding Nashville’s goal.
“It’s over time that you learn how to be [even-keeled],” Hutton explained. “I went to college for several years and didn’t turn pro until I was 24. Then I played three years in the minors. So I’ve dealt with a lot of success and failures over that time. The mental side of it really comes into effect and I think being a little mature before I hit this stage of my career, helps me out.”
The Stars opened the scoring on the power play after Nashville had a goal disallowed due to David Legwand’s goaltender interference penalty.
After surrendering the first three goals in a loss on Saturday, the home team needed to stop the bleeding–and fast.
Hutton prevented the Stars from scoring again for the rest of the game and put his club in a position for success.
“I think I find ways to win games and it helps to have a good team in front of me,” Hutton said. “I just focus on and do my job, which is finding ways to put us into a position to win. Through all the ups and downs you have to stay level and keep working hard.”
Not intended to be the Predators primary workhorse in net this campaign–or even their starter for a long stretch–Hutton has been forced to change his mindset and raise his quality of play on the fly.
Trotz commented: “That’s what we envisioned Hutton being able to do. Come in and play every four games or something and give us a quality start, but he’s been able to do a lot more than that. He’s a battler. He’s worked hard on his game and that’s where you have to give credit to [Predators goaltender coach] Mitch Korn. He’s done a great job with him. I think if you talk to any goalie, they’ll tell you that Mitch pushes them to be the best they can be. And give them an opportunity to do something in this league.”
With Hutton shutting down the Stars on one end, the Predators took a 2-1 lead to the locker room thanks to goals by Nick Spaling and Shea Weber.
Roman Josi’s wrister found its way through traffic in front of the Stars net with under a minute to play in the second. A goal that set the tone for the third period.
“Yeah that’s a huge relief getting that goal,” Hutton said. “Just going into third with a one-goal lead makes it kind of tight. So it was big that Josi could get us that goal. It really helps to take the pressure off, we can just focus on getting pucks deep, playing good defense and running the clock out.”
The Stars put 19 shots on the Predators net in the third period and Hutton turned them all away.
The two points for Nashville puts them one point ahead of the Stars in the standings and not in one of the final two spots in the Central Division for the first time in over a month.
“This was a team we could catch in the standings, so it was big to get the two points tonight,” Hutton said. “It’s important to find ways in practice to battle and find ways to stay sharp. [...] I feel like so far I’ve been pretty confident and comfortable. That doesn’t mean there won’t be ups and downs but just focusing and finding ways to win is the main thing.”
The Predators begin a four-game road trip on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks.