MONTREAL - Here are a few key storylines from Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre.
Change of seasons, from the second to the third
The Habs started building some momentum at the beginning of the game, but their efforts there were cut short when they ran into penalty trouble. Although the Predators weren't able to get on the board in the first, they exploded for four second-period goals to put the game out of reach for Montreal.
The Canadiens made things interesting by scoring two goals in the first half of the third, having seemingly gained a second wind as the game wound down, but it wasn't enough to make up for what they weren't able to accomplish in the first 40 minutes of action.
"The first period wasn't much better, either. I think that if not for Carey [Price] in the first period, it would've been different. Carey saved us in the first," recounted head coach Claude Julien of his starter, who made 14 saves in the opening frame. "The second was catastrophic. We came back with a lot more energy in the third, a lot more determination, and that's what's disappointing."
Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference
If you were wondering what sparked the Habs to show some life in the final third, Brendan Gallagher noted that there were no big speeches or words exchanged in the room between periods.
"Nothing was said. It's just as professionals you know you have to be better than that. It's extremely disappointing," shared the Montreal alternate captain, who registered three shots on goal and two hits but was held off the scoresheet. "We felt like we left our goaltender out to dry and if you have a second period like that, it costs you the game; we knew how desperate they were going to be."
Video: Vejdemo, Gallagher, Lehkonen on the loss to NSH
Julien's troops were playing their first game since the bench boss reconfigured his line combinations, and the players admitted it was a bit of an adjustment.
"For me personally, it always seems to take a little bit of time. I'm a player who tries to read off my linemates as much as possible and I've played with Phil [Danault] and Tuna [Tomas Tatar] for so long," admitted Gallagher, who skated with Charles Hudon and Max Domi on Tuesday. "It's going to come. We're just going to have to talk it out, communicate, and understand. We have to learn from each other and learn where they're going to be, learn their tendencies."
Nick Suzuki divulged that he had taken a more proactive approach. He said he found the transition a bit easier than some because he had taken time in practices and games to take mental notes on all his teammates and their tendencies, so he was able to enjoy being matched with Jordan Weal and Artturi Lehkonen.
Video: Suzuki and Hudon on the loss to the Predators
"Weal really likes to have the puck on his stick and make little plays; that's kind of how I like to play. With Lehky, he just works so hard, he's really easy to play off of. He's so good on the forecheck and getting onto loose pucks," praised Suzuki of Lehkonen, who scored his 13th goal of the season to get Montreal on the board in the third. "That combination of me forechecking with Lehky and always knowing where Wealer is... this combination works really well."
A first for Lukas
After Lehkonen made it a 4-1 game less than three minutes into the third, rookie Lukas Vejdemo was the recipient of a beautiful centering pass from Dale Weise nearly six minutes later, one he was able to squeeze past Juuse Saros for his first career NHL goal.
The Swedish forward was trying to enjoy the moment as much as he could, but the cloud of a loss to Nashville was still hanging over his head after the game.
"Of course, it's my first goal, so it's fun to score," affirmed Vejdemo, the Canadiens' third-round pick (87th overall) in 2015. "But at the same time, I'd rather take a win here today. We've lost three in a row now; that's not fun."
Vejdemo had been called up from the Laval Rocket on March 4 on an emergency basis, and the Habs reassigned him to their AHL affiliate after the game.
The Canadiens are back on the ice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday morning. They face the Buffalo Sabres at home on Thursday night.