MONTREAL — Things look to be getting nasty between P.K. Subban and his former team, the Montreal Canadiens.
Subban was held off the scoresheet and played a turnover-filled game, but his Nashville Predators still pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory on Saturday night — mainly on the outstanding play of goaltender Pekka Rinne who made 47 saves, including 10 in the five-minute overtime period.
The Bell Centre crowd reacted with some boos but mostly cheers each time Subban had the puck. The flashy defenceman remains highly popular in Montreal after his trade to Nashville two summers ago for Shea Weber, who has been out since mid-December with a foot injury.
On Friday, Subban brought several Nashville teammates along as he visited the Montreal Children’s Hospital, to which he pledged to raise $10 million for when he played for the Canadiens and has stuck with even though he no longer lives in the city.
But the Canadiens went after him early in the game, with Nicolas Deslauriers putting a solid hit on him in the opening minute. And he and Brendan Gallagher waged their own little war in the first period, but the Canadiens winger was shaken up while trying to lay on a big hit.
"I didn’t see a smile from him tonight to be honest with you," Subban said of Gallagher. "I just saw the blood dripping down his face after he tried to hit me and fell down.
"I didn’t see anything else. Other than that, it was just a normal game, as usual. Just competing in the battles and that’s it."
Gallagher tied the game 1-1 in the second period, then skated to over to the Nashville bench and appeared to say something to Subban.
"I don’t think he said anything to me," said Subban. "Some guys from the bench were saying stuff, but I couldn’t hear it.
"It’s so loud in this building. But I’m sure it’s pretty quiet over there now with two points on our side."
Gallagher said he didn’t want to discuss Subban, but launched his own barbs at his former teammate.
"I don’t know why we’re talking about him — that’s what he wants," said Gallagher. "He comes in here and tries to make it about himself."
It was Subban’s second visit since the trade. Last season, the Canadiens prevailed 2-1.
But the teams have gone in different directions since. The Predators have become one of the NHL’s top teams, while the Canadiens have had a disastrous campaign and will almost certainly miss the playoffs.
Ryan Ellis won the game with the only goal of the shootout.
After Kevin Fiala gave Nashville the lead at 12:19 of the third frame, Montreal pulled goalie Carey Price for an extra attacker and Jonathan Drouin tied it with 1:14 left in regulation time with a shot to the near side top corner to force overtime.
Scott Hartnell also scored for the Predators (33-12-9), who were coming off an overtime win in Ottawa.
Montreal (22-26-7) lost Thursday night in Philadelphia.
"I thought we deserved better," said Montreal coach Claude Julien, who didn’t want to talk about Subban. "The game plan was to get pucks behind their defencemen, it wasn’t about P.K. Subban. Obviously the attention is on him because it always is, but it wasn’t about an individual."
Arturri Lehkonen stripped the puck from Filip Forsberg at the Nashville line. Gallagher grabbed it and saw his first shot blocked by Subban, but picked up the rebound and beat Rinne from close range for his 20th goal of the season at 8:35 of the second frame.
A bouncing puck in front of the Montreal net went to Nick Bonino, who slipped it to Hartnell for the equalizer at 18:25.
After a sprawled Price made a glove save at the side of the net on Ryan Johansen, the Nashville centre slipped the rebound back to uncovered Fiala for a backhander into an open side.
Forsberg returned after serving a three-game suspension for a high hit on Jimmy Vesey of the New York Rangers.
Half of the Predators’ defence group are former Canadiens — Subban, Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber. True to form, Emelin took a penalty for an open ice hit that was a knee-on-knee contact that left Nikita Scherbak limping in the first period.