Sometimes hard work can overcome a talent deficit. In Nashville it wasn’t to be.
Carey Price kept the Canadiens in the game through a scoreless first period. In the second period they shook off whatever rust they seem to have accumulated in their four days off but couldn’t score on any of their 21 shots and 11 high danger scoring chances.
Two of the Canadiens mistakes wound up in the net; Jonathan Drouin on the first goal and Jordie Benn on the game clincher and Nashville ended a three game losing streak with a 3-1 victory.
After being dominated in the first period the Canadiens were outshooting the Predators 11-1 in the second when Drouin had one of his all-too-frequent brain cramps. His forced cross ice pass attempt from his own zone was intercepted by Craig Smith. Ryan Hartman batted Smith’s rebound past Price for the game’s important first goal. Drouin’s night included only one shot on goal, two giveaways and minus-2. In other words, we saw the bad version of Drouin.
Just before Nashville scored the game’s first goal the Canadiens had a power play opportunity that could have changed the complexion of the game. They didn’t get a shot on goal. Twenty-nine seconds after the power play ended the Predators had their 1-0 lead. The Canadiens managed only four shots in their six minutes of power play time.
For the last three years the power play has been in the hands of Kirk Muller, who returned to the Canadiens with the reputation of being a special teams guru. It might be time to bring some new thinking into the mix.
Twenty-three seconds into the game Claude Julien put his newly formed Nate Thompson/Dale Weise/Nicolas Deslauriers line on the ice. It wasn’t much of a debut. In the span of seven seconds the Predators took four shots on Carey Price and registered three high-danger scoring chances.
After their shaky first period I thought they started to get a feel for each other. Ultimately the line combined for six shots on goal and five hits. Thompson won 6 of 11 faceoffs (55%) and Weise won 2 of the 3 he took. The line also produced six shots on goal which can be considered a bonus. Thompson also logged 3:07 of the six minutes the Canadiens were shorthanded. Weise also energized his teammates with a key block of a Ryan Ellis shot.
SUBBAN VS. WEBER
Much like the meeting of the teams in January, I didn’t find either P.K. or Weber particularly inspiring in this game. Playing in his 900th career game, Weber was steady defensively but contributed little to the Canadiens offence. P.K. drew first assist on the game-winning goal and had five mostly harmless shots on goal. We’re told Subban is still working on fine-tuning his conditioning after a long stint on injury reserve.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
…..Tomas Tatar scored the Canadiens only goal. He had seven shots on goal, three of them ‘high danger’.
…..A difficult night for the Danault/Drouin/Gallagher line. Gallagher and Danault were on the ice for all three Nashville goals. Drouin was minus-2.
…..They don’t score a lot but the Kotkaniemi line continues to control offence when they’re on the ice. Kotkaniemi/Armia/Lehkonen attempted 9 shots to the Predators 5 for a Corsi rating of 64.29%. Of their eight scoring chances, five were considered ‘high danger’.
…..It should be mentioned that, while the Canadiens came into the game with the league’s 30th ranked power play, the Predators are ranked 31st and equally inept.
….Carey Price stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced. He is now 7-1-1 in his last nine starts.
….The loss left the Canadiens holding the first Eastern Conference wild card berth, two points ahead of Pittsburgh and three points behind Boston and third place in the Atlantic Division.
The final of the four game stretch against Stanley Cup contenders comes to an end on Saturday night against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. Most agreed that picking up half of the available eight points over the four game stretch would be an accomplishment. So far they have three of a possible six points. They’ll complete their road trip at Florida on Sunday before facing Columbus at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.