Predators' seesaw day ends with win over Jets

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The day started on a down note for the Nashville Predators with the news that star goaltender Pekka Rinne would miss at least a month.
It ended in much better fashion as Rinne's replacement showed he might be capable of handling his new, increased workload.
Goalie Carter Hutton kicked out 34 of 36 shots and Craig Smith scored the winning goal at 4:43 of overtime as the Predators knocked off the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
Smith's goal, his second, was a one-timer from the left faceoff circle off a David Legwand feed. It came after Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who obliterated Smith near the boards with a huge first period hit, turned the puck over in his defensive zone.
"When you get rocked like that," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of Smith, "the best way to respond is to stick it in the net."
It was the sixth win in nine matches for Nashville (6-4-1), which improved to 4-1-1 at home. Winnipeg (4-5-2) lost for the seventh time in nine matches since starting the year with victories over Edmonton and Los Angeles.
The Predators found out during the morning skate that Rinne, who went 4-4-1 with a 2.31 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage in his first nine games, was diagnosed with a spontaneous bacterial infection in his surgically repaired hip. Rinne underwent successful surgery later Thursday.
Trotz said that Hutton and Magnus Hellberg, who was called up from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League late Wednesday night, would split time on a case-by-case basis. Hutton made a statement that he could be the starter with his second win in five days against the Jets, who aided him by taking a number of long shots and not crashing the net with consistency.
"Personally, I'm approaching it the same way," Hutton said of his opportunity. "When I'm in there, I have to win. It's just a start and one game doesn't mean nothing. I have to take it day-by-day and shot-by-shot."
Hutton made seven saves in the game's opening 10 minutes as Winnipeg controlled the puck for long stretches.
But the Predators finally gained some zone time and capitalized with Shea Weber's third goal at 15:53 on a 24-foot slap shot from the slot. It came 44 seconds after Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler took a slashing minor.
"We weren't able to sustain the first 10 minutes," Jets coach Claude Noel said.
Winnipeg managed an equalizing tally at 13:49 of the second from an unlikely source. Right winger Anthony Peluso picked up his first NHL goal on a nifty wraparound which saw him go from right to left and jam the puck across the goal line before Hutton could knock it out.
Referee Brian Pochmara originally waved off the goal, but a replay review proved the entire puck crossed the goal line.
Nashville's Patric Hornqvist snapped the tie at 6:04 of the third period with his fourth goal, a rebound off a Mike Fisher shot.
Winnipeg forced overtime when Wheeler converted a rebound opportunity at 16:59, his third goal of the year.
But Byfuglien's giveaway started the Jets' four-game road trip on the wrong foot.
"To me, it's a point lost," Noel said. "The big task is to be consistent for 60 minutes. We expect to take steps. When is it going to come?"
Meanwhile, Smith and the Predators enjoyed the dramatic ending to a day that started poorly.
"He stepped up and played well," Smith said of Hutton, "and we played well in front of him."
NOTES: Fisher returned to action after missing the last three games with what the team called a lower-body injury. Fisher's wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, said he had a broken foot. ... Winnipeg RW Matt Halischuk made his return to Nashville after tallying 24 goals and 51 points in three seasons for the Predators. Halischuk signed with the Jets in the offseason as a free agent. ... Predators LW Viktor Stalberg, seen by many as the team's biggest free agent signing in July, was a healthy scratch. Stalberg hasn't scored in six games and is a minus-2. ... Winnipeg C Olli Jokinen is two games away from reaching 1,100 games in his career. He could get there Sunday night when the Jets play in Colorado.

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