Craig Smith scored the winner in the shootout as the Nashville Predators topped the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Monday night at the Bell Centre. The victory gives Nashville points in eight consecutive road games, setting a franchise record. The Preds are 6-0-2 in their last eight contests away from home and now have 67 points on the season.
“We’re just playing really good hockey right now,” Smith said. “On the road, it’s tough to play in other buildings, so we have a high sense of urgency in our room to come out and have a good first period. That’s really been as simple as it gets.”
It didn’t take long for the Predators to convert – on a delayed penalty, no less – when Viktor Arvidsson banged home a James Neal rebound at the top of the crease past Mike Condon at 3:16 for a 1-0 advantage. Montreal tallied before the opening frame was out, with Brendan Gallagher crashing the crease to beat Pekka Rinne for his 16th of the season.
After that, both goaltenders held their ground for the final 40 minutes, as Rinne and Condon turned aside numerous chances.
Then it was off to overtime, where Smith had another glorious opportunity to end it at the side of the cage with the net all but empty, but the puck wouldn’t go. Nashville then went to their first shootout since Nov. 12, 2015, and after Ryan Johansen hit the post and Filip Forsberg couldn’t beat Condon, Smith got another chance. The winger took full advantage and deposited the winner to give the Preds their 28th victory of the season.
“Tonight, I thought we played it a lot better and were more patient,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of his team in overtime. “We set it up for a couple shots and [Smith’s] was one of them, and it didn’t go for us. Some of the times we have done good things and haven’t capitalized, and they’ve gone right back the other way and scored. I thought we did a better job of being patient and waiting for our opportunities and trying to control the overtime, trying to control the puck, so that was good. It was good the guys were able to bury it in the shootout.”
Craig Smith could have 100 chances with the puck on his stick with an open net, and more likely than not, he would ice it all 100 times. But somehow, someway, some law of physics combined with a fit of bad luck to prevent Smith from winning the game in overtime for the Preds.
But then frustration and disbelief turned into jubilation in the shootout, when Smith got the ultimate shot at redemption. He didn’t miss twice.
“It’s kind of funny now, but it wasn’t funny at the time,” Smith laughed in the locker room after reflecting on becoming the hero after all.
Smith beat Montreal goaltender Mike Condon in the shootout after two of his teammates had failed to score and Pekka Rinne had denied all three Canadiens participants. Sometimes hockey has a funny way of working itself out after all.
“It was just one of those things where it happens fast and you just have to control it a little better off that, but I don’t know, it happened so fast,” Smith said of the OT chance.
“It was good to get a chance at it quick again and erase it.”
Count Rinne as one of Smith’s teammates who went from baffled to relieved within a matter of minutes at the result at Bell Centre.
“In the moment. I couldn't believe it, but it’s hockey,” Rinne said. “I was so happy for him, especially after what happened in OT and burying that third shootout [attempt], that was huge.”
Gif of the Game:
Filip Forsberg manages to incredibly pass his hockey stick behind his back while not tripping over another stick and maintaining possession.
Peter Laviolette on the pairing of Anthony Bitetto and Petter Granberg:
“I thought they were really strong tonight. They kept it simple, they moved the puck efficiently. They are a little bit of a different style of player, Tony carries the puck a little more, Petter’s a little more defense orientated, but I thought they were a good pair.”
Nashville has earned points in nine (6-0-3) consecutive games versus Montreal, including three-straight wins, dating back to Nov. 14, 2009.
Barret Jackman, who left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury and did not return, took the morning skate in the Montreal but did not play on Monday. Defenseman Petter Granberg took Jackman’s spot in the lineup alongside Anthony Bitetto.
Cody Bass was a healthy scratch for the Predators.
Nashville is right back at it tomorrow night when they face the Maple Leafs in Toronto before finishing the road trip on Thursday in Chicago.
Craig Smith goes from zero to hero as his shootout winner earns him first star of the game honors
Infographic: Redemption in the Shootout