By Amanda DiPaolo
After the Nashville Predators blew a 3-0 and then a 4-1 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, going into the Bell Centre on Thursday night was a character test for a Predators team that had not won a game in regulation since October 24th against Tampa Bay.
The Predators bounced back shutting out Montreal 3-0, with two goals from Marcel Goc and another from Cal O’Reilly. Pekka Rinne made 30 saves. Nashville did, however, lose David Legwand with a lower body injury.
When the Montreal Canadiens traded Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues during the off-season, many Habs fans were angered at the organization’s unwavering dedication and support of Carey Price as the team’s number one goaltender. So far this season, the Canadiens are not missing the goalie that took them to the Eastern Conference finals. Entering Thursday night’s game, Price had a .930 save percentage with a 2.05 goals against average.
To make matters more daunting for the Predators, Nashville has had a very difficult time at the Bell Centre, posting a 1-4-1 record in 6 games.
The game was fast and it was furious, with both teams registering quality scoring chances in what ended up being a scoreless first period. Montreal’s best chance came from Tom Pyatt’s wrist shot on goal with 9:30 minutes left in the first period. Rinne made the initial save, but the puck fell between Rinne and the goal line. Predators defenseman Cody Franson was there to make the secondary save for Nashville.
The Predators best offensive chance came with only 7 minutes to play. Patrick Hornqvist was left all alone out in front of Price with the puck on his stick. Hornqvist had two quality shots but Price had answers for them both.
There was only one power play opportunity in the first period. A late penalty was called on Sergei Kostitsyn for tripping Josh Gorges. All penalties are worrisome, but this one was more so for two reasons. First, Nashville let in 4 power play goals on Tuesday night in Toronto and this was the first penalty of the game. Second, this season Nashville has had a bad tendency to allow goals in the first and final minutes of action during each frame. Nashville killed off the penalty.
The scoreless first period would prove costly for Nashville as David Legwand left the game with 6 minutes still to play in the opening frame. Habs defenseman Roman Hamrlik crushed Legwand into the boards. Legwand was slow to get up and went right to the Predators dressing room after leaving the ice.
Nashville opened the scoring early at 1:19 of the second period when former Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon made a pass to Marcel Goc in front of the net who got the puck on his backhand and shot it right passed Price to give Nashville the 1-0 lead. It was Goc’s fourth goal of the season and second in the last two games. Goc also scored the shootout winner against the St. Louis Blues last week to help snap the Predators 5-game losing streak.
At 5:28 into the middle frame, Franson was called for high sticking Lars Eller, giving Montreal their second power play of the game. The most offensive action on the man advantage came from the Predators. Nashville went into their offensive zone 3 on 1. Jerred Smithson, drawing Price out of the net, made a pass across the ice to the stick of Ryan Suter who tipped the puck just slightly wide of the wide open net.
Nightmares of Tuesday emerged, however, when Steve Sullivan got called for hooking with 28 seconds left in the Franson call. Montreal was being given a 5 on 3 man advantage for half a minute. The Habs were unable to capitalize with the 2-man advantage.
In fact, Montreal only registered one shot on goal in the entire extended power play sequence.
During the third period, Nashville opened up the game midway through the final frame. Cal O’Reilly scored in front of the net on a tip-in with 11:05 left to play. It was his fourth goal of the season. Sullivan and Hornqvist pick up the assists.
Marcel Goc would score his second of the game with 9:43 remaining in the third. Goc received the puck from Klein in the Predators own end, skated from his own zone into the Canadiens end and shot the puck just inside the blue line. The wrist shot made its way into the back of the net on a play that looked like Price was not following the play as closely as maybe he should have been. It was Goc’s fifth goal of the season. In 11 games played, Goc has 5 goals and 4 assists.
The Predators next play on Saturday night when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Game time is 6pm CT.
Additional Game Notes:
Two assists on the night were given to Francis Bouillon in his first game back in Montreal. The Montreal media named Bouillon third star of the game (behind Rinne and Goc). Not traditionally done when you are a star as a member of the visiting team, Bouillon saluted the fans when they called his name and the fans rewarded him with a warm standing ovation. Well played, Montreal. Well played.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is Wednesday, November 24th when the Preds take on the St. Louis Blues for the third and final time at Bridgestone Arena. The game is going to be televised nationally on Versus. You do not want to miss it!