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Predators continue to roll with win over Jets

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Carter Hutton may have been wearing a Nashville Predators jersey in Winnipeg on Sunday night, but he didn't feel like he was in enemy territory.

The 27-year-old won his first-ever game as an NHL goaltender, kicking out 38 shots in a 3-1 victory at MTS Centre. The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native was cheered on by about 30 family members and friends, most notably his parents.

"It was the first game they got to see me play in the NHL. I'm sure they're pretty excited right now," Hutton said. "Playing behind Pekka (Rinne), 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."

Sunday's win was the second in 24 hours for the Predators, who defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 at the Bell Centre Saturday night. With the win, the Predators improve to 5-3-1 while the Jets fall to 4-5-0.

It was an opportunistic victory against the Jets, to say the least.

Despite having just seven shots on goal in the second period, the Predators found the twine behind Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with three of them -- that's a shooting percentage of 43 percent -- and were never really threatened the rest of the way.

They opened the scoring 20 seconds into the middle frame when left winger Eric Nystrom came down on his off wing to rip a short-handed goal just 10 seconds after the Jets went on the power play.

They doubled the lead at 12:07 when right winger Patrick Hornqvist scored his third of the season after a botched Jets breakout.

And center Matt Cullen made it 3-0 at 14:57 of the period, just seconds after a cross-checking penalty to Zach Bogosian expired with a wrist shot that found the top of the net.

The Jets broke Hutton's shutout bid at 9:13 of the third period when Evander Kane jammed home his fifth of the season in a goalmouth scramble.

Predators center Colin Wilson, who was born in New York but raised in Winnipeg and also had a sizeable contingent of supporters in the stands, said playing on consecutive nights in different cities isn't as big a deal as people often make it out to be. It comes with the job.

"I think the guys were a little tired but a lot of the guys have played in the league awhile. It's just a back-to-back game," he said.

The local connections for the Predators continued with their coach, Barry Trotz, who was born in Dauphin, Manitoba. He said he was happy with the way his team played, particularly since their body clocks were a little off after their travel the night before.

"We wanted to take the crowd out of it. We wanted to keep them quiet and check well and have a really good first period and we did. That short-handed goal gave us some life," he said.

"Last night, we worked hard and couldn't get a break. If you keep doing the right things over and over, the hockey gods might not reward you today but they might reward you down the road."

The Jets outshot the Predators by a wide margin -- 39 to 26 -- but Jets coach Claude Noel took no comfort in that statistic.

"The shots would be an illusion. We needed to get secondary shots. I didn't think we created a whole lot. We certainly didn't battle hard enough to make the goalie work," he said.

"(The Predators) frustrate you. All they did is dump the puck out and all we did was chase it. We had to find ways to get a forecheck going with better dumps or playing pucks off the goalie and making him work. We didn't have enough ‘A' games out of our group."

Noel also took issue with his team's lackluster emotional level.

"That's what's going to control the game. You can't just play to play. For the first half of the game, we just played to play. You have to be more emotionally connected to the game than just playing to play," he said.

A sure sign that the Predators took the often-deafening MTS Centre crowd of 15,003 out of the game? The biggest cheers of the night through two-and-a-half periods went to the winner of the Kiss Cam promotion, an interview with the Scotia skater who carried the Jets flag around the ice prior to the opening face-off and footage of Dancing Gabe Langlois -- an institution at Winnipeg sporting events for 25 years -- showing off his latest dance moves on the Jumbotron.

Hutton has spent the majority of his professional career in the AHL and ECHL. He played one game with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Sunday night was his third career NHL start.
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