The Montreal Canadiens fell behind early, and couldn’t fight back against a tough defensive effort from the Nashville Predators en route to a 4-1 loss Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens’ best push back came with six minutes to go in the third period with the score 3-1, but they couldn’t get anything past Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros who made 27 saves on the night.
The Predators, who were called out by coach Peter Laviolette after their overtime loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, got off to a good start, spending most of the opening minutes of the game in the Montreal zone.
The Canadiens ended up getting some opportunities early on as the line of Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron spent some time in the offensive zone and generally looked the more dangerous of the Montreal lines.
Carey Price kept the game scoreless during the Canadiens slow start, stopping several shots and looking sharp including a big save on Mattias Ekholm. Price made 28 saves a day after leaving practice early with some lightheadedness.
Shortly after that, Montreal had their best chance of the first period when Joel Armia found himself behind the Nashville defence after picking off a pass, but could not beat Saros on the mini break.
Montreal kept the momentum going and the next shift, Max Domi and Jeff Petry had possession in the offensive zone but could not get a shot away.
Nashville took the lead midway through the first period when Craig Smith scored his first of two goals on the night, potting home a rebound off of a P.K. Subban shot.
The Canadiens fought back before the end of the period as Jordie Benn continued his strong play. Benn fired a shot that hit off the crossbar, and then laid a big hit on Frederick Gaudreau. Shortly after Brendan Gallagher and Jesperi Kotkaniemi combined for another scoring chance but the score remained 1-0.
The Predators doubled their lead before the end of the period. Ekholm fired a shot from the point that beat Price with only 35.6 seconds left.
The Canadiens cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the second period when Kotkaniemi started the play and the puck found Shea Weber at the blue line. He then fired a precise shot past Saros for the Canadiens’ first goal of the game.
The one goal deficit did not last long. Only 18 seconds later, Smith took another rebound off of a Subban shot and then went around the net and beat Price to the open side.
It was the 300th assist in Subban’s career.
After that goal, the Canadiens were shut down by the Predators as Montreal really couldn’t get many scoring chances through the Predators zone. As the third period started, they did have more possession of the puck but Nashville did a good job of keeping them out of the dangerous areas.
Claude Julien pulled Price with around three minutes remaining to try and generate some offence, and while the Canadiens had some opportunities, Viktor Arvidsson finally ended the streak of Predator icing calls to score the empty net goal to make it 4-1 in the final minute.
- Falling behind early in the game didn’t help the Canadiens but allowing a goal in the final minute of the first period and then 18 seconds after they cut the lead to one - both times opening a two goal lead - was just too much for the Canadiens to bounce back from.
- Another game, another time the Canadiens were pretty good in their own zone. They only allowed five high danger chances at even strength while getting nine of their own.
- The fight back late in the third period was just too little too late. They did get some opportunities before that, but there wasn’t enough sustained pressure in the zone.
- On a night the Canadiens struggled to connect offensive plays, you have to wonder whether Andrew Shaw could have made a difference. He always seems to go to the areas needed to find the team a goal.