The Montreal Canadiens responded from a blowout by serving up one of their own.
Before the third period.
Ryan Poehling scored twice and Samuel Montembeault made 33 saves as the Habs topped the Nashville Predators 6-3.
For one night, the Habs were able to break the tension around the club and send their fans home with smiles on their faces.
Montembeault holds down the fort
There were choppy waters early on. Artturi Lehkonen’s scrappy goal within the first three minutes delayed any negative response from the 21,000 in attendance. But it was Nashville who dominated the balance of play after that. It would not have taken much for the fanbase to bring back the boos heard on Thursday night.
Samuel Montembeault denied them that chance. In their own zone, the Habs were a work in progress in the first period. The landscape of the game could have changed drastically if it weren’t for Montembeault’s two huge saves in tight on Ryan Johansen early on.
He doesn’t make it look pretty very often, but the Canadiens goaltender battled through driving Preds and traffic in front to keep the visitors off the board. His play has been a rollercoaster but he was able to steady himself and the ship for one night at least.
Flipping the script in the second
Someone must have said something in the first intermission because the Habs were a completely different team in the second period. The Montreal Canadiens played with some serious passion in what has been their worst period of the year so far.
Jonathan Drouin had been held pointless since returning to the lineup from his head injury on Nov. 16th. But his ridiculous skill broke the game wide open. Drouin’s hand-eye coordination knocked down a Juuse Saros attempted clear. Josh Anderson came flying onto the loose puck and drove to the middle. The Habs big forward showed off some skill of his own with a no-look backhand pass to Christian Dvorak who scored into an open net.
Drouin’s magic was on display again on the power-play 90 seconds later. The Canadiens winger used his specialty, the one-touch pass, to perfection. Tyler Toffoli’s pass from behind the net was on Drouin’s stick for half a second as he found Brendan Gallagher between Predators defenders in front of the net to make it 3-0.
Poehling plants his flag
With only 11 forwards dressed, Ryan Poehling benefited from an uptick in ice time to get in on the scoring action. After some terrific board work by a reunited line of Lehkonen, Jake Evans and Joel Armia, Poehling stepped in to the offensive zone. His seeing eye-wrister beat Saros glove side to make it 4-0. 37 second later, Poehling walked into a beautiful saucer pass by Toffoli and drilled part-slapshot, part-missile by Saros’ left ear to make it 5-0 and chase the Predators goalie.
The Habs got into some rough stuff to close the period as Alexander Romanov and Josh Anderson got into some heated exchanges with Nashville players. Anderson fed Mathieu Olivier a month’s worth of lunches in a spirited scrap. The fight was the most violent display of the Canadiens take-no-bleep attitude in the middle period.
Nothing comes easy
The third period should have been elementary for the Habs with a 5-0 lead. But Matt Duchene’s hat-trick brought back all of the fans early restlessness. The Canadiens penalty-kill is set to sink even lower in the league’s rankings after allowing two goals against.
But in the end the team and their fans were able to exhale with 90 seconds left. Armia passed up an opportunity to pass the puck into an open net. Instead, the big Finn chose to pass it off to Toffoli for his first goal in six games as he finished into the empty net. Finally, la foule broke into the long awaited chants of “Ole, ole, ole, ole” as the Habs picked up their fifth win of the season in their 20th game.
The Montreal Canadiens now head out on to the road for three games. They’ll be in Washington to take on the Capitals Wednesday night.