For one night at least, the Nashville Predators were just fine without Pekka Rinne.
Carter Hutton made 34 saves in place of Rinne, setting the stage for Craig Smith's goal with 17 seconds left in overtime that gave the Predators a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
"[Hutton] really stepped up tonight and he played well," Smith said. "And we played good in front of him, but he's also a pretty good goalie. So we're not worried and we're going to continue on the path."
The Predators announced earlier in the day that Rinne, their workhorse goaltender, will miss about four weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his left hip due to an infection.
Hutton was making his second start of the season, each against the Jets. The 27-year-old earned his first NHL win, 3-1 on Oct. 20, stopping 38 of 39 shots. He has a .960 save percentage against Winnipeg.
"For me personally, I'm approaching it the same way," Hutton said. "When I get a chance to play, I have to win. And obviously, [there are] a little more eyes on me with Pekka being out, and a little more pressure, but being a goalie you're not really going to hide from pressure anyway, so that kind of comes with the job."
Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler tied the game with 3:01 remaining in the third period after Hutton kicked a rebound right to his stick that was sent into an open net.
The Jets have lost three in a row (0-1-2) and seven of nine.
"I would think [this game is a] point lost, for me," coach Claude Noel said. "... We expect to take steps, and I think that we didn't take a step backwards, OK, but we need to take another step. And it's, when is it going to come? We can't wait here forever."
Nashville, 5-1-1 in its past seven games, had several good chances to score in overtime, but Smith's game-winner was the Predators' only official shot on goal.
Jets forward Evander Kane made a weak clearing pass from his defensive zone that bounced away from teammate Dustin Byfuglien to Predators forward David Legwand. He delivered a pass to wide-open Smith, whose low one-timer from the left faceoff dot beat Ondrej Pavelec.
Nashville's Patric Hornqvist broke a 1-1 tie 6:04 into the third period, also on a rebound and a lucky bounce. Seth Jones fed Mike Fisher skating up the right wing, and his shot from the boards was steered away by Pavelec. But it eluded three backchecking Jets and landed right on Hornqvist's stick; his patient wrist shot sailed over Pavelec's glove.
Nashville opened the scoring with a power-play goal from Shea Weber 15:53 into the game.
After Kane's shorthanded attempt was turned away, Filip Forsberg sent a long cross-ice pass to Legwand at the red line along the left-wing wall. He waited for Weber, who took the pass up the middle and launched a shot over Pavelec's blocker.
Winnipeg tied the game with 6:11 to go in the second period on Anthony Peluso's first goal of the season.
Michael Frolik gained possession by knocking down the puck with his glove. He fed Peluso entering the offensive zone, and Olli Jokinen received a back pass. He returned it to Peluso, who skated behind the net and emerged at Hutton's right post for the wraparound goal.
Hutton nearly made the stop with his stick while diving back, but video review confirmed the puck crossed the goal line before being batted back out.
Hutton had played one NHL game prior to this season, for the Chicago Blackhawks on April 27, a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. He will compete for playing time with Magnus Hellberg, who was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
"I'm just taking it day-by-day, shot-by-shot, period-by-period, kind of slow things down," Hutton said. "... You look at the big picture, it can be a bit overwhelming."
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