Rocky Mountain high followed by Prairie low

Hutchinson brilliant in Denver, shaky in 'Peg


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Less than 48 hours after his best performance of the season, Michael Hutchinson suffered through perhaps his lowest moment of 2016-17.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/10/2016 (2291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Less than 48 hours after his best performance of the season, Michael Hutchinson suffered through perhaps his lowest moment of 2016-17.

Getting pulled Sunday after a stellar 37-save shutout of the Colorado Avalanche Friday night was a bitter pill for the 26-year-old Winnipeg Jets goaltender to swallow.

“Obviously, I needed to make the save on the third goal,” said Hutchinson, who appeared handcuffed on Kyle Okposo’s second-period shot that went under his left arm and found the back of the net to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-0 lead. “I just missed it.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is angled out of the play by Sabres defenceman Dmitry Kulikov during Sunday’s game.

The Jets alternated Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck with reasonable success as starters through the first eight games of the regular season. Hutchinson’s start Sunday was the first departure from that pattern.

“I didn’t like the last two (goals),” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “I mean, he played so very well (in Denver). I didn’t pull him out of anger. The third one should never have happened. The shot should never have happened. I’m not hanging that one on him. But I know I’ve got Helly going in the next (game) and he goes in and gets some work.”

Maybe Hutchinson deserved better. The Jets were unable to give him a lead and were playing catch-up when Okposo scored his first goal of the game at 10:51 of the opening period. Okposo’s original shot was blocked by Jets blue-liner Toby Enstrom but the high-profile free-agent signing pounced on the loose puck and drilled it home.

Buffalo captain Brian Gionta made it 2-0 when he popped in his own rebound for his third goal of the season.

“It kind of got away from me a bit, more than I thought, but I was able to track it down,” said Gionta. “The D played the two-on-one closer to (Matt Moulson) and I tried getting a shot and it ended up coming right back to me.”

It was just one of those games, said Hutchinson.

“… they got a lucky bounce on the first one… the guy made a better shot on the second attempt…” he said. “That’s an unfortunate bounce against. The second goal was a two-on-one where the second guy was able to get the rebound. The third one — I reacted too quick to the shot… I just missed it and it went under my arm.”

Hellebuyck is due to start Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. The Winnipeg tandem combined for 25 stops against the Sabres.

“We’re both trying to help the team win,” said Hutchinson. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the net any given night. We were going back and forth for a little while there so, as long as the team is winning, that’s all that matters.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson gives up a rebound that Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Gionta put in the back of the net Sunday afternoon to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead at the MTS Centre.

The Sabres, meanwhile, had no such goaltending issues Sunday.

No. 1 puckstopper Robin Lehner, who was sidelined for 10 days and three starts, returned the lineup and made 37 saves, including Winnipeg’s 12 power-play shots.

“It felt good,” said Lehner. “I started to lose my breath a little bit in the end, but that’s too be expected after a week coming back after the flu.”

NOTEWORTHY: Defenceman Tyler Myers was a surprise scratch after suffering a lower-body injury in the Colorado game… Veteran forward Drew Stafford (upper body) is not expected to suit up Tuesday against the visiting Capitals… Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien had a team-high seven shots apiece for the Jets… The Jets killed off Buffalo’s lone power play and went 0-for-6 on the power play themselves. Buffalo held a significant edge in the faceoff circle, going 36-of-67 (54 per cent).

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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