MONTREAL — Fuelled by a pre-game ceremony honouring former defenceman P.K. Subban, the Montreal Canadiens stepped up their game right from the start.
In a 4-0 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Monday, the Canadiens were outshot 19-6 in what head coach Martin St. Louis called an “unacceptable” first period. On Thursday, Montreal turned the tables outshooting Nashville 19-8 in the opening frame of a 4-3 win over the Predators.
“We’re working on correcting this and tonight was a good example,” St. Louis said. "If you look at Nashville’s first goal, we’re still playing a good first period and we kept fighting.
"I’m happy the guys got rewarded but it’s not just the win, it’s how we did it. I’m more happy for our game than our result.”
Samuel Montembeault made 39 saves.
“I think our special teams was a pretty big deal,” said Caufield “Penalty kill and power play, we’re trying to get in the right direction with those categories but it sure is a big step for us and we’re trying to keep that going.”
Nashville head coach John Hynes said his team gave “40 minutes” of effort, starting in the second period.
“Both teams had to be ready for it,” Hynes said about staying focused during Subban’s pre-game ceremony. “They were ready for it, we weren't.”
In his NHL debut, Yaroslav Askarov stopped 31-of-35 shots.
“First game in the NHL. Awesome, awesome,” Askarov said. “Yes, we lose but I will remember this game forever.”
Montreal pressured the rookie goaltender with a 5-0 shot count early.
“Of course, it wasn't easy with so many shots,” he said, in Russian, through teammate Yakov Trenin who helped translate. “But it helped me feel better.”
However, it was Niederreiter who broke the ice at 10:35. He tipped in a puck from Roman Josi, who sent a centring pass from the slot.
Evans tied the game just under three minutes later when he sent a shot on net that Askarov couldn't get enough on to stop it.
The Canadiens took a 2-1 advantage at 15:08 when Jesse Ylonen found Dach open near the left post and fired in a one-timer.
Nashville levelled the score 12 seconds into the second period when Matt Duchene found Forsberg in front of the net.
Midway through the frame, Nick Suzuki sent a cross-ice pass to Caufield who gave Montreal its second lead of the night on the man advantage.
Caufield bagged his second power-play goal 6:15 into the final frame, taking a cross-ice pass from Dach for the one-timer.
The Predators, who outshot the Canadiens 20-7 in the period, pulled Askarov with just under three minutes remaining. With 1:29 left, Parssinen cut their deficit to one goal with a slap shot.
CANADIENS HONOUR SUBBAN
The Montreal Canadiens honoured Subban, who retired ahead of the 2022-23 season. Subban addressed the crowd and was met with a standing ovation.
“It's always an emotional time and the respect is overwhelming,” the former defenceman said. “Everybody wants to be respected but when it's like that, you never really know how to handle it. I just tried to take it in stride and be appreciative of the fact that I played here.”
Subban added that Canadiens owner Geoff Molson reached out to him not long after his retirement to offer the opportunity for the ceremony.
“He’s a legend here and he’s done a lot of great things in the community and for the team,” said Caufield. “To have a guy like that come back and have a standing ovation like that, it’s pretty special to be here and a cool moment for him.”
The Toronto native spent the first seven of his 13 seasons with the Canadiens. He also played for the Predators and the New Jersey Devils. He totalled 467 points (115 goals, 352 assists) in 834 career games and won the Norris trophy as the league's top defenceman in 2013.
The Canadiens will head to the Big Apple to take on the New York Islanders on Saturday.
The Predators will return home to host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press