Alexander Radulov was booed every time he got the puck - and when he came on for his first shift in overtime, even before he touched the puck.
And in the end, those boos turned to goals as he had primary assists on both Montreal Canadiens goals as they defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in overtime.
Radulov was not the beloved captain and leader making his return. There was no tribute video for him. And you could feel him feed off of it. He set up Shea Weber - who was the star of the show - for the Habs opening marker and Max Pacioretty for the game winner in overtime.
The first period was scoreless but it wasn’t for a lack of chances on either side but Carey Price and Pekka Rinne were up to the task sharing big saves. The first chance occurred when Michael McCarron entered the zone and fired a wrist shot that was turned away by Rinne.
The goalies shared big saves on opponents breaking in alone with Price stopping Viktor Arvidsson and Rinne stopping Pacioretty.
Price made a big save on Ryan Ellis by sticking out his left pad.
Nashville had the first power play of the game when Jeff Petry took a penalty for high sticking, but it was killed without much danger in front of Price.
Both teams’ had scoring chances in the period didn’t even result on shots on goal. Nashville’s Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg broke in on a two on one but Forsberg couldn’t get a shot away on Arvidsson’s pass. Shortly after, Artturi Lehkonen had the puck on a three-on-one but his pass to Nathan Beaulieu was blocked by the defence.
The Canadiens ended the first and started the period with a power play when Colin Wilson went off for hooking, but were not able to muster anything more than a Pacioretty feed in front that was tipped on Rinne.
Nashville went back to the power play when Paul Byron was called for slashing. On the tail end of the man advantage, they got a couple of shots on Price, but he was able to turn them away.
Montreal’s best chance of the period came when Beaulieu entered the zone and fired a shot on Rinne. He picked up the rebound as he came around the net and had a turn around shot on Rinne but he came across with the pad on the second opportunity.
Arvidsson had another scoring chance when he went in on a partial two-on-zero but he was once again turned away by Price.
Nashville finally opened the scoring in the final minute of the second period when Kevin Fiala broke in the Canadiens zone. He put a backhand shot on net that deflected off of Nathan Beauleu’s stick and past Price.
It was a harmless looking shot, but once it deflected, it left Price with no chance.
In the dying seconds of the second, Weber centered a pass into the slot but Radulov and Byron couldn’t put the puck into the open net as Matt Irwin batted the puck off the line with his glove.
Montreal came back in the third, led by Radulov. With just over 15 minutes left in the period, Radulov drew the Predators defence to him, leaving Weber alone across the ice. He put a perfect pass on Weber’s tape. Weber then walked in and fired a snap shot past Rinne.
It was a moment you couldn’t even script because it worked out too perfectly. The Nashville crowd cheered Weber, and booed Radulov in the goal announcement, following their script as well.
Both Weber and Radulov played great games. It could have been easy for either of them to crumble under the pressure, but they both rose above it. They didn’t just get lucky to come together for that tying goal. They deserved it.
In overtime, after Montreal controlled most of the play during the extra frame. Brendan Gallagher wasn’t even on the ice for the winning goal, but had a great first shift winning puck battles and keeping possession for the Habs.
Late in the period, Radulov retrieved the puck behind the Nashville net after it was dumped in, held the puck and finally found Pacioretty in the slot who fired the puck in the net with 30 seconds remaining.
- Montreal didn’t only play well, they dominated the Predators. They controlled over 60% of shot attempts at even strength throughout the game, and throughly deserved the two points. Sure, this is a Nashville team that is not playing great and missing P.K. Subban, but Montreal is doing this without Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov.
- Phillip Danault will be Monteal’s No. 2 centre once everyone is healthy. His emergence is one of the stories of the season.
- A Hollywood studio would have refused this game as a script for being too perfect.
- There is way too much yellow in the Nashville uniforms.
- Alex Radulov is must-see TV, especially when he’s on a mission. What a find by Marc Bergevin.