Rinne was forced to leave the game after a collision in front of the Nashville net caused the Preds netminder to slide into the end boards. Hutton stopped all 10 shots he faced after entering the contest three minutes into the final frame, and the Predators added three goals in the final seven minutes of regulation to record the victory.
“When Pekka left the game, the best player on the ice for about five minutes was Carter Hutton,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was nice to see him come off the bench and get into the game. They fired four or five good shots on the net and he made big saves. That is a critical point in the game when you lose your goaltender and the guy on the bench has been sitting there for two and a half periods.”
The triumph gave the Preds sole possession of first place in the NHL and upped their League-best home record to 17-2-1.
The Predators connected for two goals in 2:15 in the opening frame, beginning with a Craig Smith’s power-play tally and finishing with a Colin Wilson strike off of a 2-on-1 with Mike Fisher. The goal was Wilson’s second of four points on the night, giving the winger 17 points in his last 11 games.
Hutton withstood a flurry of chances after entering the game, including the Preds killing off a Canucks power play. After weathering the initial storm, Nashville then increased their lead with goals from Filip Forsberg, Fisher and Wilson’s second goal of the game.
“Our main goal is always to get the next one, it doesn’t matter what the score is,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “Hutton made a lot of saves for us when they had one or two shifts with a lot of zone time. But after that, our mindset was to go forward and we added some goals at the end there.”
Nashville faced Canucks netminder Eddie Lack for the second time this season with usual starter Ryan Miller out with an illness. Vancouver dropped to 12-7-2 on the road after giving up two early goals to the Preds.
Preds Lose Rinne:
At 2:55 of the third period, Chris Higgins drove toward the Preds net as Nashville D-man Anton Volchenkov looked to cut the forward’s angle off to the crease. Upended, Higgins’ momentum carried the trio of players into the end wall behind the Predators goal.
Rinne hit the boards and stayed down briefly before standing up and gingerly testing how he felt. After a brief conference with Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler, Rinne decided to exit the contest and did not return with a lower-body injury. Rinne was listed as day-to-day after the game, with an update expected on Thursday after the goaltender is re-evaluated.
“Of course you never want to see a goalie like Rinne go down, especially as important as he has been to us, but hopefully it’s not too bad,” Josi said. “But I think that first shift, Hutton had like 10 saves on that first series. They had a lot of zone time and he made a couple of great saves to [settle] things down. It’s tough to step in the third period and he’s been sitting on the bench the whole game cold. He did a tremendous job.”
Thrust into the spotlight, Hutton entered the game and saw his first minutes of playing time at home this season. The goalie was forced to make multiple saves immediately after manning the Preds net and the netminder was equal to the task.
“I didn’t have much time to [adjust],” Hutton said. “I felt like the Canucks were attacking right away. It’s my job to be ready to go whenever. We really battled in those first [couple minutes] and killed their possession time and then from there we had some big goals.
“Mentally you have to prepare to play every night because you never know when you might get the call. That’s part of being a pro.”
Nashville rallied around their backup goalie and put three more pucks past Lack while keeping Hutton’s run in the Preds goal spotless.
“We would do the same thing if we saw a backup goalie go in cold off the bench, you try to get as much pressure as you can right away,” Hutton said. “But I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm, and they didn’t have many chances. From there we kind of took over.”
Wilson Ties Career High:
The 25-year-old forward entered Tuesday’s contest playing perhaps the best hockey of his career. Against the Canucks, he only added to his hot stretch by tying a career high with four points and extending his point streak to four-consecutive games.
Points simply continue to pile up for Wilson and Tuesday was no different.
“I’ve felt good throughout the whole season,” Wilson said Monday. “Sometimes you’re not getting any bounces, sometimes you’re getting all the bounces. I think it’s just a matter of the two opposites; at the beginning of the season, I wasn’t getting any. Now, I’m getting a lot more. I’m just trying to stay consistent and work hard every night.”
Wilson tallied the game-winner in the first period after picking the top corner on Lack roughly six minutes into the game.
“Wilson’s goal was a beautiful goal,” Laviolette said. “Vancouver played hard. When you lose a couple games, your urgency to win goes up and they played an ultra-aggressive game. There was not a lot of room out there or a lot of scoring chances, but once we got going again we capitalized on it in the third and got those goals in the end.”
Wilson explained this week that playing in Laviolette’s “more-open” offensive system has freed him up to push the attack on offense, and right now the forward is scoring at an incredible rate.
“I feel like I’m less worried about the points coming,” Wilson said. “Usually, you just don’t worry about the end product, usually you just focus on each game. It’s an old cliché, but it really does work.”
Despite leaving the game due to injury, Rinne still picked up the victory for his 29th of the season. Preds forward James Neal recorded two assists in his return to the lineup after missing five games with a lower-body injury.
Nashville is now 16-1-2 when scoring the first goal, with an identical record when leading after two periods. The Predators are 28-4-3 when scoring at least two goals and 23-2-1 when holding the opposition to two goals or less.
The Predators will hold an open practice, free to the public, on Thursday at Ford Ice Center with an 11 a.m. start time.