Blues start fast, defeat Rangers 3-1
NEW YORK — Through three games, the St. Louis Blues had trailed for only 114 seconds.
They didn’t add to that total Tuesday night as defenseman Carl Gunnarsson scored 15 seconds into the game and St. Louis went on to a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers.
Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz also scored, and goaltender Carter Hutton made 32 saves in his first start of the season for the Blues (4-0-0).
St. Louis, which has been without forwards Patrik Berglund, Robby Fabbri, Alex Steen and Zach Sanford as well as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester because of injuries, has earned eight of a possible eight points to open the season.
“If you look back at last year, we lost a lot of guys to injury,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s next man up. That’s the mentality our group has. We’re not going to allow any excuses to creep in.”
The Blues grabbed an early lead when Schwartz stole the puck from Brady Skjei in the Rangers’ zone on the first shift. Gunnarsson snuck down from the blue line and took a cross-ice pass from Schwartz, and quickly fired it past the glove of Henrik Lundqvist (20 saves). It was Gunnarsson’s second goal of the season after he scored five in his first 189 games for St. Louis.
“It was a good start for us,” Schwartz said. “(Gunnarsson) made a heck of a shot there and did a good job of finding an open area.”
New York (1-3-0) tied it just over two minutes later on the power play. The Rangers cycled the puck around the zone before a Kevin Shattenkirk shot was stopped by Hutton. Pavel Buchnevich swept the rebound wide of the crease and onto the stick of Mika Zibanejad, who scored to tie the game at 1-1.
It was Zibanejad’s fifth of the season — he has scored in each of the Rangers’ four games — and his fourth with a man advantage.
The Blues retook the lead at 13:30 of the first period on the power play. After Steven Kampfer turned the puck over along the boards, it ended up on the stick of Schenn on the goal line. He banked it off the arm of Lundqvist to put St. Louis up 2-1.
“Honestly, I don’t know how that found the net there,” Lundqvist said. “It was obviously frustrating to see it go in. It was just a quick play from the boards.”
Schwartz added an empty-net goal at 18:13 of the third period, and has seven points through four games, second in the NHL in scoring.
Lundqvist kept the Rangers’ deficit at a goal midway through the second period when he stopped Scottie Upshall on a short-handed breakaway. The Blues forward chipped the puck past Ryan McDonagh at his defensive blue line before taking off, then was denied by Lundqvist’s right pad.
“It’s frustrating,” said McDonagh, the Rangers captain. “We’re trying to put together a full game here and we haven’t done that yet.”
The Rangers nearly tied it after killing off the beginning of a five-on-three power play in the third, when Michael Grabner found himself on a breakaway. Hutton came to the top of his crease, though, and made the save.
“He didn’t have a big step, but I knew he was coming. He can wheel,” Hutton said. “For me, I was just trying to match his speed. Be out, be aggressive, and we had enough back pressure on him — that puck was rolling, he had to make a quick shot — and I was able to get my shoulder on it.”
Between Hutton and Blues starter Jake Allen, Blues goaltenders have stopped 139 of 148 shots against them this season.
“My job is to play on those back-to-back nights, and whenever I get in there to go in, and compete, and play well,” Hutton said.
NOTES: Blues F Dmitrij Jaskin was scratched for missing a team meeting Tuesday. ... The Rangers assigned 18-year-old F Filip Chytil, taken with the No. 21 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, to the AHL Hartford Wolfpack. ... Rangers D Kevin Shattenkirk played his first game against the Blues, whom he played 425 games for before being traded to the Washington Capitals last season. ... It’s the second time in franchise history the Blues have started a season 4-0-0. They also did so in 2013-14.