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Blues cap off dad's trip with 1-0 win over Sabres

One chance, one shot, perfectly executed from a faceoff win, to fending off a winger, then taking the goalie's eyes away and Carl Gunnarsson set the stage before Carter Hutton finished things off.
Feb 3, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; St. Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton (40) looks for the puck during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It started with a shot bar down. Then at the end, it was a blade of steel.

One chance, one shot, perfectly executed from a faceoff win, to fending off a winger, then taking the goalie's eyes away and Carl Gunnarsson set the stage before Carter Hutton finished things off.

Gunnarsson's shot from the left point with 5 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the game gave the Blues a lead, and Hutton's skate blade finished off a 1-0 victory over the Sabres on Saturday night before 18,777 at KeyBank Center to cap off the dad's trip in style.

Gunnarsson's goal was executed perfectly, and then Hutton, who picked up his second shutout in his last four starts, extended the right skate blade as far as he could to prevent what would have been a sure tying goal from Sam Reinhart with 32 seconds remaining in the game as the Blues (32-19-3) come home 1-1-0 on the dad's trip.

Gunnarsson scored after Paul Stastny won an offensive zone faceoff back, and with Alexander Steen running the Sabres' Evan Rodrigues off the puck and Vladimir Sobotka going to the net to take Sabres goalie Robin Lehner's eyes away, Gunnarsson quickly snapped a shot through traffic off the crossbar down and into the net for the only goal.

"It worked out, eh," Gunnarsson said. "We had a couple chances and didn't go in. I got a little lucky, but it's good to see it go in.

"Credit to [Steen]. I thought he was going to get the puck and then I saw that he stopped the winger trying to get out and it was just easy to step into. He made it easy for me."

Steen had to read the play right in trusting the puck would get back to the point, which it did.

"I felt like the puck had enough pace to it that it would make it out to 'Gunny' and if I picked my guy a little bit, he could step into it and he did and it was a heck of a shot," Steen said. "A lot of heat on it, too. That was good."

Fitting that it went to Gunnarsson, who was playing for the first time since Jan. 23 and just the second time in the past seven games as the Blues are dealing with a numbers game on defense.

"He played a great game," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Gunnarsson. "It was not a hard decision. We needed to get him in, he deserved to get back in and very happy for him. Obviously getting the goal was big, but I thought he played an outstanding game all around."

And with dad Bjorn in the house, it was a special feeling for Gunnarsson.

"It's a little special to score with him in the building and get the game, too," Gunnarsson said. "I don't think that's happened before. That's pretty cool."

And then there's Hutton, who is 4-0-0 his past four starts with a 0.50 goals-against average and .984 save percentage. He's stopped 121 of his past 123 shots but none were bigger than the one on Reinhart, who took a cross-crease pass from Evander Kane and went down on one knee to quickly snap off a one-timer, but Hutton, fully extended, got his right blade on the shot and sent it up and wide seconds after an interference penalty to Gunnarsson had expired.

"It was a great play by them," Hutton said. "Obviously they've got a dangerous power play and we gave them too many chances tonight. I just go backdoor on it to my (right) post. I try to get my skate to the post all the time and I'm able to just get a little bit of leverage. I think it jams him a bit so he just tries to get it off quick. Luckily enough I get a skate on it and it stays out."

It was one of those I-can't-believe-I-didn't-score moments for Reinhart.

"That’s a tough one to swallow at that point of the game," Reinhart said. "I've got to find a way to put that one on net."

Keeping pucks out of the net has been Hutton's forte all year. He leads the NHL with a 1.61 GAA and .947 save percentage this season.

"'Huttsy's the story of the end there," Steen said.

"He's a battler and seems to make ... a lot of his best saves seem to come at times when the game is on the line and that was certainly an example of that," Yeo said of Hutton.

It was a helpless feeling for Gunnarsson in the box watching the final few minutes unfold.

"Oh my God. I think my heartbeat was higher than it was during the rest of the game," Gunnarsson said. "They had a couple good chances too, so like I said, thank God for him and the PK blocking shots and doing a great job. It's the worst feeling in the world sitting in the box and you're up by one."

Throughout the game, the Blues didn't seem to have their best. The Sabres (14-29-9) were out-hustling the Blues and winning a lot of loose pucks, hemming the Blues in their own zone and not allowing much zone time.

"I thought we played an OK game," Steen said. "I thought we have another notch to our game. I thought we were a little slow with the puck at times, but the other details in our game I thought we brought them tonight and obviously 'Huttsy' was huge for us, a couple big saves there at the end.

"I think the way that we played the game, I liked that we stuck with it. They had a few chances early on and I felt like we got to our game a little bit more and then obviously towards the end."

Yeo agreed.

"I would say that's fair," he said. "I think that we defended well in some areas. I think our execution could have been a little bit better, but the other thing I'll say is Buffalo played a really strong game today. This is the NHL. They've got good players over there. They made it difficult on us all night. I thought their structure was very good all night through the neutral zone and their own zone, they really didn't give us any space. I think that we could have better in some areas, but I also think that the opponent was good tonight, too.

"I didn't like the last call at all, but obviously we took a few there. PK was big and 'Hutts' was there. It was a big part."

The final few seconds were also hectic for the Blues because Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen's one-timer from the blue line hit the cross bar and out before time ran out.

"We hit the bar and go in and they hit the bar and go out," Hutton said, then giving his dad Jack a big hug afterwards. "That's the way it goes sometimes.

"It was nice obviously having (the dads) on the trip. Now we fly home and it's a happy flight home here."