MONTREAL — Things looked to be getting nasty between P.K. Subban and his former teammates.
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 thanks to the outstanding play of goalie Pekka Rinne who made 47 saves, including 10 in the five-minute overtime period.
Ryan Ellis scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the Predators to the win.
The Bell Centre crowd reacted with some boos but mostly cheers each time Subban had the puck. The flashy defenseman 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.
The Canadiens went after Subban early in the game, with Nicolas Deslauriers putting a solid hit on him in the opening minute. And Subban and Brendan Gallagher went at each other in the first period, but the Canadiens’ forward was shaken up while trying to lay a big hit on his former teammate.
“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,” Subban said. “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 still launched some barbs his way.
“I don’t know why we’re talking about him — that’s what he wants,” Gallagher said. “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.
Scott Hartnell and Kevin Fiala scored in regulation for Nashville.
Jonathan Drouin also scored for the Canadiens, and Carey Price stopped 30 shots.
Fiala gave the Predators a 2-1 lead with his 18th with 7:41 left in the third period. After the Canadiens pulled Price for an extra skater, Drouin tied it with his eighth with 1:14 remaining.
“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 defensemen, 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 Gallagher picked up the rebound and beat Rinne from close range for his 20th goal of the season at 8:35 of the second.
A bouncing puck in front of the Montreal net went to Nick Bonino, who slipped it to Hartnell for the tying score with 3:38 remaining in the middle period.
After a sprawled Price made a glove save at the side of the net on Ryan Johansen, the Nashville center slipped the rebound back to uncovered Fiala for a backhander into an open side.
NOTES: 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. … Forsberg returned after serving a three-game suspension for a high hit on Jimmy Vesey of the New York Rangers. … Half of the Predators’ defense are former Canadiens — Subban, Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber. … 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.
Predators: Host St. Louis on Tuesday night to start a four-game homestand.
Canadiens: At Colorado on Wednesday night to open a four-game trip.