The Predators faced their third-straight division leader tonight when they took on the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens and Predators have both had trouble scoring in the first period recently, but the Habs broke through the Nashville defense in a big way during the first frame. Finding the back of the net three times in the first 20 minutes, the Habs speedy and skilled forwards found clear lanes to the Preds net several times.
After a dismal start to the contest, the Preds found some life toward the end of the first period.
At the 15:57 mark of the first frame, Predators forward Matt Hendricks tangled with Canadiens forward Travis Moen in what seemed like a “too little, too late” attempt to wake up the Preds, but head coach Barry Trotz gave the forward credit saying: “It started with Hendicks saying, ‘Hey, it’s not going to be that easy, you can’t just walk in here.’”
As Hendricks walked toward the tunnel to the dressing room, the Blaine, Minnesota, native stopped and yelled at his teammates, clearly challenging them to wake up.
“I don’t really remember what I said. It was something along the lines of ‘let’s pick it up’ and ‘let’s get going.’ The game was still available and we had a chance to win it,” Hendricks said.
And get going they did.
The home team put 20 shots on the Canadiens net in the second period alone and got tallies from Gabriel Bourque at 11:51 and a power play goal from Nick Spaling at 18:09 to cut the Canadiens lead to 3-2.
“Viktor Stalberg beats a guy that’s got 30, 40 pounds on him, gets the puck to Cullen who feeds Bourque and we start to chip away. That’s what how we needed to rebound in the second,” Trotz said. “In the second we finally started doing the right things: getting pucks deep, drawing penalties and then our power play executed.”
The third period opened with Nashville trailing 3-2, but a second power play goal (this time from Shea Weber) tied the contest with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation. Quite an accomplishment from a team that looked like they were going to get run out of their own barn early in the game.
“We got it tied up there and we were the ones taking it to them” Trotz said. “We got a lot of help from our leadership tonight, [...] we were put in a position where it would have been easy to give an excuse, but we didn’t do that and that’s encouraging.”
Neither side found a fourth goal in the final seven minutes of regulation and the game went to overtime tied at three.
Under two minutes into the extra frame, David Desharnais blasted a slap shot past Carter Hutton (his only goal given up after replacing Marek Mazanec in the first) and the home team’s heroic comeback fell short.
Trotz said: “I look at it as a well earned point, but I think we should have had two. [...] We just buckled down and stayed with it. Instead of pouting about it, we got relentless and chipped away at their lead”
Predators forward Craig Smith was visibly upset after the loss and didn’t echo his coach’s sentiments on the moral victory.
“We want to win a game, we’ve got to win a game. The point is not good enough, but we have to start winning now,” Smith said.
Nashville had not overcome a three-goal deficit in almost a year. The last time they had accomplished the feat was on January 31st, 2012, against the Minnesota Wild. They were close tonight, but in the end, the Preds did not have the fourth goal in them.
The Predators tour of top teams the last three games had not gone well. Nashville dropped all three contests this week against the No. 1 team in the West and the No. 2 and 3 teams in the East. But after being down three goals after 20 minutes, even getting the one point from the OT loss has to be seen as some sort of accomplishment.
Nashville will play their last game before the two-day Christmas break on Monday against the Boston Bruins.