Montreal fell behind by two less than four minutes after the opening faceoff Tuesday night and trailed by that margin two other times before rallying for a 6-5 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators. "Obviously not the start we wanted, to be down by two," rookie goalie Jaroslav Halak said. "But we battled back. Big game for us."
Sergei Samsonov forced overtime when he scored with 47.1 seconds left in regulation before Saku Koivu's shootout goal provided the difference in a shootout which extended to four skaters per side.
Peter Forsberg, acquired by Nashville in a trade last week, had a chance to answer Koivu's goal, but slipped to the ice on his attempt against Halak.
"We kept letting them back in," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Full credit, they stayed in it (and) . . . in a shootout, anything can happen."
Samsonov had a goal and an assist, and Koivu had two assists for the Canadiens, who won their third straight after a six-game losing streak. Halak remained unbeaten in the NHL with his third straight victory since being called up and making his debut last week.
Nashville regained a share of first place in the Central Division and Western Conference standings despite the loss. The Predators are tied with Detroit with 84 points, but the Red Wings have one game in hand. The teams will play five times in the next four weeks, beginning with a game Saturday at Nashville.
Michael Ryder, Mark Streit, Garth Murray and Alexander Perezhogin scored for Montreal. Ryder became the second Canadiens player with 20 goals this season when he converted a pass through the crease by Koivu to make it 2-1 with five seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 advantage in the first.
After Perezhogin made it 4-4 with a power-play goal 4:08 into the third, David Legwand put Nashville back in front less than two minutes later when his shot from behind the goal line deflected in off the legs of Montreal defenceman Sheldon Souray.
"Sometimes you need games like this to build the confidence," Koivu said. "Hopefully, from here on, it will be a little easier to win games."
The Predators snapped an 0-for-19 power-play drought when they converted three times in the first 22:28. J.P. Dumont got the last of those to make it 4-2.
Scott Hartnell and Steve Sullivan also scored with the man advantage, and Legwand and Shea Weber scored even-strength goals. Dumont finished with a goal and two assists, and Hartnell and Sullivan each had a goal and an assist.
Sullivan missed the final minutes of overtime and the shootout with an undisclosed injury.
"We did exactly what we wanted to, like having good power plays, good chances, playing well five-on-five," Dumont said. "They got back in the game every time."
Notes: Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun had an assist on the first goal. It was his second assist in as many games . . . Koivu has three straight multi-point games. He has one goal and six assists in that span . . . Forsberg failed for the third time to record his first point for Nashville . . . Montreal has scored seven power-play goals in the last three games, its best stretch since it had eight over three games from Dec. 14-19 . . . This was Nashville's final game against an Eastern Conference opponent. The Predators went 7-2-1 against the East.