Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Danault – Radulov
Lehkonen – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
Byron – Plekanec – Shaw
King – McCarron – Mitchell
Markov – Weber
Emelin – Petry
Beaulieu – Benn
Brian Flynn, Andreas Martinsen, Brandon Davidson, Nikita Nesterov, Steve Ott
There was a sustained ovation, some tears and rather loud boos tonight at the Bell Centre. And all three of those involved P.K. Subban. It was that kind of night on Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal: a fitting tribute from the organization, a chance to express gratitude from the fans and genuine emotion from Subban.
But apart from the sideshow (which mostly has been led by a fawning media), there was a very important hockey game to be played. There couldn’t have been a better response to the Subban hoopla than Shea Weber staring down Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas during his first intermission interview. It was a reminder: this is serious business.
So what was at stake? The Canadiens were emerging from a month where they failed to win a game in regulation time. On the other hand, the Predators have been the third hottest team in calendar year 2017, riding their high-powered offence that has recorded 42 goals in the past 10 games.
To end the game with a win, having given up just one power-play goal to Nashville, is indicative that Carey Price was the best player on the ice. But credit is also due to Claude Julien’s remade defensive structure. With the exception of Nathan Beaulieu, the defence corps was solid.
Now, if only Julien could work his magic on the Habs offence. Prior to Brendan Gallagher’s tying goal midway through the third period, the Canadiens had gone more than 220 minutes in regulation time without a goal. For Gallagher, it was just his seventh goal of the season.
Montreal had just five shots in the first period. And while they upped the shot count in the second, they were not manufacturing scoring chances. It’s been Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov who have primarily provided the offence recently, along with Alex Galchenyuk when he has been given the chance.
But the regular centre of the top line, Phillip Danault, hasn’t shown the creativity to match with Radulov and Pacioretty. Worse, he has been unable to anticipate the play of his more skilled linemates.
While some argued that the addition of size would open up lanes for the smaller Habs players, that wasn’t the case tonight. Gallagher’s goal came on a Nashville miscue as Brendan drove to the net. Paul Byron’s game-winner came as he won a foot race.
The Canadiens now head to Madison Square Garden for a Saturday night match against the Rangers. It will be interesting to see whether their newly found secondary scoring will continue or was just an aberration.
▲ Carey Price, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, Michael McCarron, Andrei Markov, Jordie Benn, Alexei Emelin, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber
▼ Phillip Danault, Tomas Plekanec, Nathan Beaulieu