Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hutton stands tall, Blues top Devils 3-2 in shootout

Goaltender makes ridiculous highlight-reel save in overtime, 
Schenn, Tarasenko provide shootout goals for second straight victory

ST. LOUIS -- Doing his best impersonation of Gumby, Carter Hutton once again gave the Blues a chance to win.

Hutton wasn't called upon a great deal in regulation, but boy, was he ever needed in overtime Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton (40) makes a save on the Devils' Blake Coleman
on Tuesday. Hutton made 24 saves and two in the shootout of a 3-2 win.

Just ask Marcus Johansson, who will have nightmares thinking about Hutton.

Hutton's reflex-like kick of the left pad on Johansson with 2 minutes 9 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Blues a chance, and his teammates were able to make good on winning one for their netminder when Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the shootout for the Blues in a 3-2 victory against the Devils before 18,324 at Scottrade Center.

Hutton's second straight start ended with the goaltender gloving Kyle Palmieri's wrist shot after he had made a save on Taylor Hall in the first shootout to give the Blues a two-game winning streak for the first time since Dec. 9-10.

Hutton was a bit fortuitous when Devils rookie and 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier surged in on a breakaway and hit the left post. The puck bounded behind Hutton to his left, and as he was tracking to his right, had to locate the puck and somehow shift back to his left. In doing so, he was able to kick out the left pad and keep Johansson's fluttering rebound out of the net in an overtime the Devils virtually dominated.

"Hischier made a pretty quick move right to his forehand off the post," Hutton said. "I knew it went back and I wasn't sure, and I reached behind me and I was able to kind of pick it up. I don't know if I got my right skate in the back of the net and just was able to get my left leg around and luckily he didn't roof it. I was able to get the pad on it."

Was it one of the best saves he's ever made?

"That one's up there," Hutton said. "That was a good one."

Hutton's teammates agreed, and in giving them a chance to win it, the Blues felt like they needed to reward their goaltender.

"I just feel like we can't lose today," Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko said. "Sometimes you need to fight for someone. When he makes save like this, it's on us to win the game."

"I would say 'Hutts' had the best game," Blues left wing Vladimir Sobotka said. "That [overtime save] was huge. Even in the shootout, he did a good job for us. That was his game tonight."

Indeed it was.

Johansson wasn't sure if he won the game but was hopeful.

"I didn't know," Johansson said. "I was kind of hoping, but I had a tough angle. I knew it was close, didn't know if his pad was inside the line when he kicked it out. ... I just wish I got a little bit more on it."

But for Blues coach Mike Yeo, he was lobbying whether his player of the game was Hutton or video coach Sean Ferrell, who successfully called down to challenge the Devils' potential go-ahead goal with 13:46 remaining in the third period on an offside play.

The Devils thought they took a 3-2 lead with 13:46 remaining on a Jesper Bratt goal, but the Blues challenged offside and the goal was waved off after a lengthy review. Johansson was deemed to have been offside entering the zone with 14:01 remaining.

Johansson had entered the illegally, with his back skate off the ice before the puck crossed over the blue line. 

"That's a good argument," Yeo said. "They need to give out a couple first stars tonight. That's for sure.

"Tough call. It's tough for Sean. You're sitting there in the coaches office and that one was close. Probably the game is on the line, not just if it counts, but obviously the penalty following it if you get it wrong. But he stuck his neck out there and did a great job helping us get the win."

But ... 

"'Hutts' was great," Yeo said. "I thought he played his best when the game was on the line. Overtime was tough for us. That's the best team that I think I've seen in overtime, the way that they played, and their speed. I was kind of waiting for somebody to call a 'too many men on the ice penalty.' It seemed like we couldn't grab the puck, but 'Hutts' was there and had an answer for it every time."

Video coaches have virtually seconds to make a split decision on plays like this. 

"He's on it all the time, so long story short, he's ahead of it," Yeo said. "So when the puck goes in, he's already looked at it and he's radioing into us basically what we should do.

"... I kept asking, 'Are you sure, are you sure?' I gave him a chance to change his mind, but I'm glad that he didn't. It was close, it was really close, but a great job by him."

Tarasenko scored in regulation and in the shootout for the Blues (25-15-2), who have won back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 9-10.

The Blues have won nine in a row against the Devils, outscoring them 30-11.

Hischier and Hall scored, and Keith Kinkaid made 27 saves for the Devils (22-11-7), who lost their third straight.

Sobotka's eighth goal this season put St. Louis ahead 2-1 at 18:08 of the second period when he tipped Tage Thompson's shot from the left face-off circle. It was Thompson's first NHL assist. It came after Paul Stastny's good forecheck from behind to force Johansson into turning the puck over and Thompson coming out with it off the wall, faking by Palmieri and firing a wrister that Sobotka got a piece of.

"'Stas' was gonna drop on the forecheck and Tage got the puck there and I just try to go to the net," Sobotka said. "It hit my stick and went in the net."

Hall's power-play goal, a shot from a sharp angle along the goal line off Hutton's back at 1:17 of the third period, tied the game 2-2.

"Another tough game for me. There was not a lot of action. Playing the back to backs and trying to play with jump," Hutton said. "And then I thought I really didn't like that power play goal I gave up. I just kind of lost it. It went off the post and you get out of sorts. I think me and 'Bouw' [Jay Bouwmeester] kind of got tangled up and it's in the net. We get a big break on the offside. 

"That Jesper Bratt takes a knuckle post top corner, perfect shot and it was called back. It kind of changes the tide of the game and then I thought we did a good job tonight. And then in that overtime, that's when I was called upon and I was able to compete and get it to a shootout and then from there, guys iced it."

Tarasenko's 17th goal of the season matched Brayden Schenn for the Blues lead and gave them a 1-0 lead at 12:48 of the first period. It was Tarasenko's 101st even-strength goal since 2014-15, which is most in the NHL.

The Devils tied it 1-1 at 12:36 of the second period when Hischier tipped Sami Vatanen's point shot.

It was the Blues' fear that they left the Devils hanging around after outshooting them 14-5 in the first period and could have walked into the locker room leading by two or three goals.

"Yeah, I would have liked to have seen a little more killer instinct," Yeo said. "I thought we got soft with the puck and it fueled their speed. We played a pretty good game -- don't get me wrong -- but I think that what we did, the way we were coming out, we were aggressive, we were firm, we were in their face and then I thought the way we handled the puck for a large part of the second period really gave them the sense that the game was there. I thought we gave them a chance to build their game, so it's something that we have to talk about and try to make sure that we're better at come Thursday."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) scores the first goal on Tuesday
in a 3-2 shootout victory over New Jersey.

And when New Jersey got better, Hutton was up to task.

"Give credit to Carter Hutton," Kinkaid said. "He played outstanding."

The Blues have won six in a row over the Devils at home, outscoring them 23-11 and swept the season series (the Blues won 3-1 in New Jersey on Nov. 7) for the fourth straight season.

And in winning again Tuesday, the Blues are 20-0-0 when leading after two periods, the most wins in the NHL. They are 14-0-1 when leading after one period and 19-3-1 when scoring first.

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