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Nashville Predators 3, Montreal Canadiens 4: Askarov impresses in debut

Rookie goaltender makes 31 saves in first NHL game

NHL: Nashville Predators at Montreal Canadiens David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators had their first glimpse of 2020 11th overall pick Yaroslav Askarov as an NHL goaltender Tuesday night during their 4-3 loss against the Montreal Canadiens on the road.

Askarov flashed plenty of potential and made some key saves, but it wasn’t enough to come away with a win in Montreal. Two Canadiens goals on the power play and another at four on four were the difference. Askarov finished the night with 31 saves on 35 shots.

The rookie goaltender didn’t get a ton of help early on. Askarov had to fight off a frantic scramble in front of the net in the opening minutes and then came up with another big save after a Nashville turnover in the defensive zone. Montreal registered the first five shots on goal of the game. Colton Sissons then missed a wide-open net after a feed from Juuso Pärssinen on a two-on-one, failing to give Askarov some early goal support.

Nashville drew its first power play of the game midway through the period, but the Predators failed to cash in with the extra man. However, Nino Niederreiter opened the scoring moments later with his 13th goal of the season. Roman Josi circled around the left side of the net and fired the puck toward where Niederreiter was standing in the crease, where he deflected it into the net for the goal.

Montreal responded with a shooting gallery in the Nashville zone after the goal, but the Habs couldn’t find a way to beat Askarov. Both teams drew a penalty for some four-on-four hockey. Montreal finally scored a much-deserved goal when Jake Evans’ shot leaked through Askarov on a two-on-one to even the game at one goal apiece.

Askarov came up with another highlight-reel save moments after the goal when he sprawled across the crease to deny the Habs another goal.

But the rookie didn’t do himself any favors on Montreal’s second goal. He left the net to play the puck in the corner and turned it over. That led to Kirby Dach scoring on a wide-open backdoor goal and the Habs taking the lead. Montreal held a 31-10 advantage in shot attempts at five on five during the opening frame, per Natural Stat Trick.

Filip Forsberg tied the game at two before fans in Montreal could return to their seats after the intermission. Duchene came around the Montreal net and fired a backhand pass to Forsberg in front of the net, and the Swede buried it for his 18th goal of the season and ninth in as many games.

Montreal regained the lead midway through the second period when Cole Caufield blasted a one-timer past Askarov on the power play. Askarov preserved the one-goal deficit a few minutes later by denying the Habs a goal on a breakaway. Overall, the Predators showed a much better effort in the second after getting shelled in the opening period, outshooting Montreal in the second period and helping out their rookie goaltender more in the defensive zone.

Montreal doubled its lead in the third period by burning the Predators on the power play again. Caufield scored his second power-play goal of the game on another cross-ice one-timer.

Pärssinen made it a one-goal game again with an empty net when his shot through traffic found the back of the net with about 90 seconds to go. But the Predators couldn’t find another goal to force overtime.