MONTREAL — Craig Smith missed what looked like a certain goal in overtime, but the Nashville Predators right-winger made no mistake in the shootout.
Smith beat Mike Condon for the only goal of the shootout to lift the Predators to a 2-1 victory over the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
But he might have been the goat as, in the final minute of the five-minute overtime, he managed to misfire from point blank range while alone at the edge of the crease.
"At the moment I couldn’t believe it," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said of Smith’s miss. "But it’s hockey.
"It’s probably not an easy situation when he was the third shooter in the shootout and was able to make that move. It was huge. I was so happy for him after what happened in OT."
The Predators are 1-10 in games decided in overtime this season, but they are 3-1 when it goes to a shootout. However, it was the first shootout they’ve been in since a loss to Toronto on Nov. 12. Nashville will face the Maple Leafs again Tuesday night in Toronto.
The Preds had three overtime losses in the last two weeks and are 3-0-3 in their last six games.
"It’s been a while," said Rinne. "You go through shootout situations in practice, but it’s been three months and that’s a long time during a season.
"But it’s a huge win. (Max) Pacioretty had me big time (with Montreal’s third shot of the shootout) and it’s a good thing the puck was bouncing. I got a little lucky there."
Viktor Arvidsson scored in regulation time for the Predators (28-21-11), who are in playoff position at fourth in the Central Division, one point ahead of Colorado with two games in hand.
Brendan Gallagher scored for Montreal (28-27-5), who have won only four of their last 12 games but have points from their last five at home (4-0-1).
"It was a one-bounce game," said Pacioretty. "It was tougher when this (slump) first started to happen, trying to find answers and block out the outside noise, but I think we got better at it and started just worrying about the process each day.
"Since we’ve taken that mindset we’ve had some better results. We have to keep at it."
Nashville outshot Montreal 29-27 in regulation time and 30-29 overall.
The Predators dominated the early minutes, leading 8-1 in shots at one point, and got the first goal at 3:16 when Arvidsson banged in James Neal’s rebound with Nashville playing with six attackers on a delayed penalty.
Montreal found its rhythm late in the period and Gallagher was at the doorstep to lift Andrei Markov’s rebound over Rinne at 19:49.
There was a deathly dull second period whose only highlight was a big glove save by Mike Condon on a Smith laser from the slot 12 minutes in.
The red light went on behind Rinne’s goal with 2:33 left in the third after a mad scramble in which defenceman Roman Josi swept the puck out of the crease with a glove, but there were so many fouls from both sides on the same play the referees called none. Video review showed the puck never crossed the goal line.
Notes — The Canadiens announced after the game that defenceman Tom Gilbert will miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury that will require surgery… Winger Dale Weise, an impending free agent who has been the subject of trade rumours, sat out with a flu. Lucas Lessio moved into the lineup . . The Preds were without defenceman Barrett Jackman due to an upper body problem. That put Petter Granberg into the lineup.