Paul Byron scored in the dying seconds, and the Montreal Canadiens came back to defeat the Nashville Predators by a 2-1 final at Bell Centre on Thursday. The result snaps Nashville's four-game win streak, keeping them at 73 points on the season.
With a lone goal in the first period, the Preds held a lead for a majority of the contest, but the Canadiens scored twice in the final frame, including Byron's tally with 8.3 seconds to play in regulation to seal the win.
"It's a tough loss," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Throughout the whole game, we felt pretty good about what we were doing… I thought our third period was really good, and we made a mistake in the last 10 seconds."
A clapper from Ryan Ellis with the Preds on the power play put Nashville ahead 1-0 in the first. P.K. Subban, who earned the primary assist, was visibly excited following the early lead for the visitors in his first return to Montreal.
The score remained stagnant until the third stanza when Brendan Gallagher offered a wraparound bid toward the Preds' cage that deflected off Matt Irwin, and then it was Byron who ended it on a partial break with less than 10 seconds to play.
For Nashville, the loss undoubtedly stings, especially on a night when Subban wanted nothing more than to come away with a win against his former club.
"I thought we played extremely well, and we had a number of chances," Subban said. "I think that's the story of the game - if we bury our chances, this game is over before the third period. But we didn't, and that's the nature of the NHL now. You have to bury your opportunities when you get them, but you have to give them credit, they found a way to win."
Video: NSH@MTL: Subban tears up in return to Montreal
All Love for Subban:
A 10-minute span prior to the opening faceoff between the Preds and Canadiens helped to show just how much No. 76 meant to Montreal when he was playing in one of North America's hockey-richest cities.
Tears rushed down P.K. Subban's cheeks following the Canadiens' video tribute commemorating the defenseman six seasons with the organization.
Video: NSH@MTL: Subban receives tribute in Montreal return
The support from the Habs' faithful in the Bell Centre was immense for Subban, right from the opening moments of warm-ups when the blueliner skated out first for the Preds. The thousands in attendance responded with cheers and chants of "P.K., P.K., P.K."
"It was great, [Montreal is a] first-class organization, so I would expect nothing less," Subban said. "It was an emotional game for a lot of people out there. I really enjoyed it, but it's too bad we didn't get the two points."
Subban then had this to say about his Preds teammates, who let him take the ice for warmups first with a playful gesture, the rest of the team remaining in the hallway until Subban had done a solo lap on Bell Centre ice.
"I have to be honest, I have a great bunch of teammates," Subban said. "The way they've handled everything the past couple of days and everything since I was traded here, it's first class and it's a great group of men in there. Great hockey team, but a great group of men and guys that understand that there are somethings that are bigger than hockey."
Video: NSH Recap: Ellis scores in Preds' heartbreaking loss
Ryan Ellis exited the game in the first half of the second period and did not return. The d-man went down after pursuing a loose puck in neutral ice, suffering a lower-body injury. Ellis needed assistance getting to the locker room.
P.A. Parenteau, who was acquired by Nashville on Wednesday, did not play in Thursday's game due to an upper-body injury. Colton Sissons, Brad Hunt, Harry Zolnierczyk and Anthony Bitetto were also out of the lineup.
The Preds are back in Nashville for their next game, a Saturday night tilt against Chicago at Bridgestone Arena (at 7 p.m. CT), before heading out to California for three more road contests next week.