Carter Hutton made 15 saves in the third period to protect the Blues' 3-2 lead over the Rangers as they improved to 3-0 on the season Saturday night. (Scott Rovak/St. Louis Blues)

By Rob Rains

Carrying a one-goal lead into the third period and minus three players because of injuries, the Blues knew their best hope to defeat the New York Rangers Saturday night was their goalie.

Carter Hutton did not let his teammates down.

Hutton, the backup to Jake Allen, made his St. Louis debut a memorable one by stopping 15 shots in the final period to preserve a 3-2 win for the Blues at Scottrade Center.

The victory was the third in a row for the Blues, the fourth time in franchise history they have begun a year 3-0. The last time they did it was in 2013-14, when they won their first four games.

Hutton stopped 33 of 35 New York shots in the game, and turned in perhaps his biggest save of the night on a shorthanded 2-on-1 breakaway by left winger J.T. Miller in the final period.

“The goalie was outstanding in the third period, he won us the game,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “Whether it was the three games in four nights or the injuries that depleted us, we needed our goalie and he came through for us. We were running on fumes.”

The Blues were without centers Kyle Brodziak and Jori Lehtera and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, all of whom left the game in the first two periods because of upper-body injuries. Hitchcock said the team won’t know more about the extent of the injuries until Monday.

The injuries forced the Blues to scramble their lines for the final 20 minutes, increasing the pressure on Hutton to keep the Rangers from scoring the tying goal.

The Blues did not have a shot on goal during the period.

“We knew they had speed, all night they were trying to open it up,” Hutton said. “We stuck with it; just battle, just compete on everything. They got their chances and we were able to hold them off.”

The Blues built a 3-1 lead on an early breakaway goal from Vladimir Tarasenko, a rebound goal from Paul Stastny and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo.

A goal by Mika Zibanejad just 30 seconds after Pietrangelo’s goal 2:58 into the second period cut the lead to 3-2, but Hutton was able to protect that lead for the remainder of the game.

“That third period was unbelievable,” Pietrangelo said. “It was pretty impressive. He’s been great all camp, he’s been great since he got here. He carried it over tonight.”

Hutton was signed as a free agent after spending the last three years in Nashville, serving as Pekka Rinne’s backup, and knows stretches of games like the one the Blues just finished will be when he gets his chance to contribute to the team.

“That’s a lot of hockey in four days and you’ve got to be proud of us finding a way to win,” Pietrangelo said. “We knew he was going to make some big saves. That’s a tough way to start the season and we found a way to win. That’s the type of character we have.”

The Rangers had injury concerns of their own, losing defenseman Dan Girardi to a hip flexor in the second period.

“We didn’t give them a lot of opportunities,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “We created quite a few in the third period and should have been able to tie it up. Their goaltender made the difference.”

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was not ready to give all of the credit to Hutton, however.

“We could have put a little bit more of a screen on him,” McDonagh said. “He was seeing the puck a lot and I’m sure we had some shots, but you’ve got to try and take away his eyes and make him uncomfortable a little bit more.”

Stastny and Tarasenko each had an assist in addition to their goals. Stastny leads the Blues with six points on two goals and four assists through the first three games.
NOTES: RW Ty Rattie was a healthy scratch for the Blues for the third consecutive game. Coach Ken Hitchcock said Rattie likely will make his season debut on the team’s upcoming three-game road trip. … LW Jaden Schwartz, out with an elbow injury, will make the trip to western Canada with the Blues but still is not expected to be ready to play until around Nov. 1. … Brodziak played in his 700th career game. … The Blues next game is Tuesday night in Vancouver.