Whenever Nashville and Montreal play each other, it's a big story, and with Dale Weise and Nate Thompson making season debuts with the Canadiens, it was even bigger.
The Predators dominated the first couple of shifts, including the fourth line's first outing of the game, but Carey Price was equal to the task. The Finnish Line got one of the only offensive-zone shifts in the first five minutes.
Habs fans got to see a power play even worse than Montreal’s when Brendan Gallagher took a high-sticking penalty about six minutes in, but though they killed it off, they were trailing 9-1 in shots.
Thanks to a strong shift from Andrew Shaw and the second line, Montreal got some momentum back and then drew a power play of their own. Although they didn’t capitalize, they did camp out in the offensive zone and retain good possession, getting one really good look before the penalty came to an end. In a rare series of events, it actually led to some momentum.
They were unable to keep the momentum going, and with five minutes left in a Nashville-dominated first, Artturi Lehkonen took a penalty. Fortunately, Nashville’s bad luck on the advantage continued.
Nashville outshot the Canadiens 16-7 in the first period, but thanks to Price the score remained 0-0.
The second period began with an improvement from Montreal, with Gallagher getting a couple of whacks at a puck in Nashville’s blue paint. The Finns also put in a good shift, as Joel Armia battled compatriot Pekka Rinne. The further the period progressed, the more it became a flipped image of the first period, as Montreal continued to swarm the Nashville net, picking up seven shots and allowing zero through the first five minutes.
A couple of minutes later, the Predators returned the favour, but Gallagher drew a power play. To exactly nobody’s surprise, it came to nothing. A couple of minutes later, an unfortunate play from Jonathan Drouin led to the first goal of the game — especially unfortunate since the Habs had been dominating the period up to that point.
The Canadiens didn’t collapse, however, and continued to play with good pace. Thanks to an incredible save one-on-one from Price on Viktor Arvidsson, Montreal trailed by one going into the next intermission.
It was a frustrating 20 minutes overall, as Montreal outshot the Preds 21-11 in the middle frame, yet found themselves down 1-0.
The Habs were jumping in the third period too, as Gallagher came out flying with a big shift. Weise took his first penalty back in a Habs jersey a couple of minutes later. In this short-handed situation, Phillip Danault charged in with Lehkonen, and then Armia pounced. Neither beat Rinne, but the momentum once again went the Habs’ way. Tomas Tatar tied the game on a great cross-crease pass from Shaw shortly after they returned to full strength.
Unfortunately for the Habs, the Predators took advantage of a somewhat botched defensive effort, and Brian Boyle wired one through a crowd and past Price.
Things went downhill from there, as Nashville jumped on a turnover from Jordie Benn, and Arvidsson made it 3-1 with 9:09 to go. Montreal got another crack at the power play, and though they generated good movement and a couple of good chances, they were unable to draw within one. In this case, though the power play didn’t cost them anything, it definitely hurt that they were unable to capitalize on it.
Shea Weber wired one at the net, and Victor Mete just missed a wide-open net with about four minutes to go. Price then sprang Tatar and Domi, but once again Rinne came up big.
Montreal pulled Price for the extra attacker, and though they did not concede an empty-netter, they were unable to make a dent in the score, falling 3-1, and being outshot 38-35.
After a terrible first period, the Habs played a terrific second, and a mediocre third. In the end, they were doomed by a couple of ghastly defensive mistakes, an inability to capitalize on the power play, a couple of big missed chances, and a big game from Rinne.
- Andrew Shaw, to my eye, looked really good throughout, and appears to be playing like the best version of himself. His assist on Tatar’s goal was the most obvious example, but he was noticeable digging pucks out of corners and generally being a strong presence.
- What vengeful deity did Victor Mete anger that he’s still so woefully snakebitten? Even Lehk’s got nothing on him on this one!