As more players end up on the injured reserve for the Blues, it was the return of one of those walking wounded that was the story of the game against the Winnipeg Jets. Carter Hutton returned to the crease 15 days after taking a Scottie Upshall shot off the foot and landing on the IR. Hutton wasted little time showing fans that he was back in form.
Hutton’s teammates took some pressure off of him early on as the Blues controlled play to start the game and were rewarded with two power plays. While the Blues were unable to generate much on the first man advantage the second proved fruitful and helped take the monkey off the back of Vladimir Tarasenko at the same time. With Andrew Copp in the box for “tripping” Brayden Schenn, a bit of a weak call, the Blues set up in the Jets zone. Colton Parayko worked the puck over to Alexander Steen who fired a shot on Steve Mason, the rebound kicked out front and eluded Schenn only to fall perfectly for Tarasenko who ripped it past Mason for the 1-0 lead.
After not scoring for six straight games between November 24th through December 9th, Tarasenko now has three goals in his last six games. While Vladi still doesn't seem like he has busted completely out of his slump, the puck is now starting to find the net and that is huge for the Blues with Schwartz out with injury.
Scoring the first goal is always huge for any team but more so for the Blues this year. The Blues were 15-2-1 when scoring first coming into the game against Winnipeg which led the NHL.
Yet despite the lead and the momentum from scoring first, the Blues seemed to just let go of the game and said hey Jets meet Carter Hutton, see if you can get anything past him. Over the course of the next full period of play the Jets threw everything including the kitchen sink at Hutton but the Hutt said no.
The Blues didn't help matters by taking four penalties between the mid point of the first and the mid point of the second. The Jets also poured 21 shots at the Blues netminder in the second period alone and Hutton turned them all aside with ease. Winnipeg continued to control the play heading into the third period and it seemed like the Jets would break through at any point.
The Blues, to their credit, did match the Jets in scoring chances despite recording half the shots. Steen had the best chance to extend the lead early in the third but his wraparound attempt was denied by a sprawling Mason at the last possible moment.
Normally at this point, with the Blues being outplayed, out shot and unlucky the Jets would have scored a late goal and sent this game into overtime, but the Force must have been with the Blues tonight as a late high sticking double minor was called on Patrik Laine giving the Blues a chance to put the Jets away.
And Vince Dunn wasted little time in sealing the game with a wicked wrister that glanced off a defender and swept past Mason’s head just 6 seconds into the power play.
Winnipeg wouldn't go away, though, and continued to pour shots on net as the game wound down but Hutts stood tall and nothing slipped past. With the net empty at the other end Hutton almost got a chance to shoot for a goal of his own but he wasn't able to get the puck in the right spot and settled for sending it to the corner and a clear out. When the horn sounded the scoreboard read 2-0 Blues, 48 shots against and Hutton’s first shutout of the season.
The win pushed the Blues back atop the Central Division at 46 points and put 5 points between the Blues and Jets with the second half of the home and home coming up tomorrow afternoon. Jake Allen is likely to start for the 5:00 puck drop.
#3 - Vince Dunn: PPG and an overall strong game
#2 - Vladimir Tarasenko: PPG and PPA, three goals last 6 games
#1 - Carter Hutton: 48 saves, SHO in first game back from IR