NEW YORK (AP) — The St. Louis Blues recognize that they’ve entered the new NHL season in a precarious position because of injuries to key players.
They’re not letting that stop them from finding ways to win.
“Next man up is the mentality we have to have,” coach Mike Yeo said after Carter Hutton made 16 of his 32 saves in the third period to help the Blues remain unbeaten with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Carl Gunnarsson and Brayden Schenn scored first-period goals for St. Louis, which improved to 4-0. Jaden Schwartz added an empty-netter with 1:47 left.
“The guys battled really hard,” Yeo said. “Our veteran players have really raised their game and stepped up.”
After the Rangers dropped to 1-3, left wing Rick Nash was asked if the team was concerned about its start to the season.
“There has to be,” Nash said. “With all these home games early on, these are the games that when you get to March and April, that really mean something.
“There’s definitely an urgency to fix this and start winning some games.”
Trailing 2-1, the Rangers pressured an injury-depleted Blues squad in the third period, outshooting St. Louis 16-8.
New York outshot the Blues 32-23 overall.
“There’s no doubt that in the first two periods we didn’t generate a lot,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “In the third I thought we brought a lot more energy and willpower. We spent a lot more time in their end and we finally got some pretty good looks but we weren’t able to score.”
Hutton, in his first start of the season, was a significant reason why the Rangers were stymied. His three biggest stops occurred in the third period, beginning with Michael Grabner’s short-handed semi-breakaway, later followed by Jimmy Vesey’s stuff-in attempt during a goalmouth scrum, and Pavel Buchnevich’s try from the low slot.
Buchnevich slammed his stick against the ice in frustration a moment after the whistle blew to stop play.
“I felt really comfortable,” Hutton said. “In the third we hung on.”
Even though the Rangers held an 11-7 advantage in shots, it was the Blues who went into the first intermission enjoying a 2-1 advantage. Gunnarsson opened the scoring at 15 seconds with his second of the season, a wide-open wrist shot from the slot.
Mika Zibanejad tied the game 2:07 later with his fifth of the season on the power play.
New York was credited with six of the nine shots on goal following Zibanejad’s goal, but it was the Blues who went ahead on Schenn’s second of the season at 13:30 when the center banked Paul Stastny’s rebound off goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“I went top shelf,” Schenn said. “Sometimes you are lucky.”
Benefiting a team that has started the season without Patrik Berglund (left shoulder), Jay Bouwmeester (left ankle), Robby Fabbri (left knee), Zach Sanford (left shoulder) and Alexander Steen (left hand) due to injuries, the Blues employed a tighter brand of hockey in a second period in which neither team scored and St. Louis had the two best opportunities.
The first was Scottie Upshall’s short-handed semi-breakaway eight minutes into the second, and the other was Schwartz’s drive from the left circle with 8:51 left, both of which were stopped by Lundqvist.
Lundqvist also was credited with a goalmouth stop on Stastny during a St. Louis power play in the third. New York’s goalie finished with 20 saves.
“I think I played a pretty solid game,” Lundqvist said. “But it’s not the start you’re looking for.”
NOTES: Adam Cracknell made his Rangers debut. New York picked up the 32-year-old right wing off waivers Monday from Dallas. He wore No. 25 and skated on the fourth line with Paul Carey and David Desharnais. … Prior to the game, New York announced rookie Filip Chytil had been assigned to AHL Hartford, and Andrew Desjardins was released from his professional tryout. .. St. Louis announced it had reached an agreement with San Antonio to be the Blues’ AHL affiliate. According to a statement from the Blues, they will share “select players” with San Antonio this season, and “the official affiliation” starts next season. … Yeo benched Dmitrij Jaskin for missing a team meeting, and scratched Wade Megan. … New York scratched defensemen Brendan Smith and Tony DeAngelo. It was the second straight game Smith, who signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract with New York on June 28, was a scratch.
Blues: Visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
Rangers: Travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets on Friday.
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