Despite assertions to the contrary, the three-goal lead is one of the safest in hockey.
On Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, the Montreal Canadiens ran out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on the Nashville Predators, chasing Predators netminder Marek Mazanec from the net after he faced merely five Montreal shots.
A little over a minute after Tomas Plekanec scored Montreal’s third goal, Nashville’s Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with the Canadiens’ Travis Moen.
After the fight ended, as Hendricks walked back to the locker room, he stopped to scream something at his teammates.
“I don’t really remember what I said,” Hendricks said. “It was kind of along the lines of, ‘Let’s pick it up,’ and, ‘Let’s get it going!’ The game was still available and we had the chance to win it. That’s kind of what I said.”
“We played a good game,” Hendricks said. “That’s the kind of hockey that this team needs to play. That’s the brand of hockey we need to bring every night.”
Hendricks’ message was carried into the locker room. While Nashville trailed 3-0, there were still 40 minutes left on the clock.
“It was huge,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “A guy like that means a lot for our team. Guys go to war and put their bodies on the line and guys get fired up. We came in here and discussed it and just said we have to go for it. We had two options, we could lay down or we could get back into the game and try to get it.”
The Predators came out of the gate in the second period with a vengeance, peppering Montreal’s Carey Price with 20 shots.
At 11:51, Matt Cullen found Gabriel Bourque sitting in front of a wide-open net. Bourque shot and the Predators closed the gap ever so slightly to 3-1.
Six minutes later, at 18:09, Nick Spaling scored on the power play to close the gap to one goal as the two teams headed into the third period.
“Obviously, we needed to turn things around,” Spaling said. “We needed to bounce back and come out with urgency. I think we did a good job of that in the second by coming in and putting some pressure on them.”
The teams remained deadlocked for the first half of the final stanza before Weber scored Nashville’s second power play goal of the night on the team’s second opportunity at 13:40. For the first time since January 31, 2012, against the Minnesota Wild, the Predators came back from a three-goal deficit.
“It was a great team effort,” Weber said. “Obviously, a tough start for us and we talked about having good starts in this building. We showed a lot of character tonight and we did a lot of good things. That’s going to build some confidence. You aren’t going to get up one- or two-to-nothing every game, you’re going to have to play from behind. We showed a lot of good things tonight, so I’m definitely proud of the guys in here.”
“I just think we let them dictate their game (in the first period),” Hendricks said. “They wanted to play fast. They want to chip pucks behind us and we didn’t put pucks in areas where we could retrieve them. We allowed them to play an easier game. Once we got away from that and got back to playing hard hockey, we put pucks in areas where we could retrieve them, they had to come further back into their defensive zone which made it harder for them to get odd-man rushes.”
While the Predators closed the gap and took the game to overtime, Montreal ultimately scored the game-winner and walked away with the 4-3 overtime win. However, Nashville ended the game with a point that seemed virtually impossible at the end of the first period.
For the Predators, though, it was not enough.
“We want to win hockey games,” Hendricks said. “We did a lot to get it back to one point, but we want two.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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