Series (Game 1 of 1)

Montreal leads 1-0

Game 1: Monday, March 10th

Canadiens 3

(25-29-8, 66 pts)

Predators 1

(27-26-5, 69 pts)

8:00 PM ET, March 10, 2003

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

1 2 3 T
MTL 2 0 13
NSH 0 0 11

J. Theodore (Canadiens - G): Saves: 37, Save Pct.: .974

T. Vokoun (Predators - G): Saves: 25, Save Pct.: .926

D. Audette (Canadiens - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

Canadiens surprise red-hot Predators with 3-1 victory.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Nashville Predators paid the price for taking the Montreal Canadiens for granted.

Donald Audette scored two goals in a game for the first time this season and Jose Theodore stopped 37 shots and had an assist as the Montreal Canadiens snapped a nine-game winless skid Monday night by beating Nashville 3-1.

The defeat snapped an eight-game unbeaten streak at home for the Predators, who desperately needed the victory in their attempt to qualify for the playoffs for the first time. They remained five points behind Edmonton, the eighth-place team that lost to Toronto 3-2 on Monday night.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz worried that the Predators would take the Canadiens too lightly.

''We fell in that trap,'' Trotz said. ''We looked at Montreal having struggled on this road trip. I thought our guys thought they might pack it in. I knew they wouldn't. There's too many good pros on Montreal and too much pride in that jersey for that to happen.''

On paper, this should have been an easy victory for one of the NHL's hottest teams. Nashville had been 9-1-1-1 in its past 12 games, while Montreal had not won since beating Edmonton on Feb. 15.

But the Predators, who allowed only two first-period goals in their past 12 games, couldn't have started this game much slower before a very quiet crowd of 12,483.

Montreal outshot the Predators 14-5 in the first period, and Doug Gilmour, possibly playing his last game with Montreal before the trade deadline Tuesday, scored at 4:51 off a rebound of Mike Ribeiro's shot near the right post.

Audette made it 2-0 with his sixth of the season by tapping in a rebound of Patrice Brisebois' miss from the left side at 8:47.

''I thought our first period was outstanding,'' Montreal coach Claude Julien said. ''When they came back in the second period, Theodore made some great saves to keep us in the game.''

Theodore played like the goalie who won 30 games and the Hart and Vezina trophies last season instead of the man who just earned his 16th victory this season.

''He was there for us when we made mistakes,'' Montreal right wing Randy McKay said of Theodore. ''It's nice to have him back there playing the way he did tonight.''

The Predators rallied and outshot Montreal 33-14 the rest of the game, and Oleg Petrov ended the shutout at 8:41 of the third with his first goal since being traded by Montreal to the Predators.

Greg Johnson sent a shot across the crease from the right circle, and the puck went off Vitali Yachmenev's stick. Petrov poked the puck back toward the crease, and it went off Theodore's right skate and the left post to pull Nashville to 2-1.

''We didn't panic, and we were able to keep the lead,'' Theodore said.

That would be it as Theodore stopped Vladimir Orszagh in front of the crease with 1:50 to go, and he smothered a shot from Scott Walker 26 seconds later. He helped clinch the victory when he fed the puck to Audette who scored his second goal with 54.5 seconds left with a shot from near the red line that hit the middle of the empty net.

Nashville captain Greg Johnson said the Predators will regroup with three more games in the next five days.

''We just have to bounce back,'' he said.

Game notes

Marcel Hossa and Ribeiro each extended point streaks with their assists on Montreal's first goal of the game. Hossa has three assists in three games, while Ribeiro has four assists in that stretch. ... Saku Koivu padded his point lead to 62 for Montreal with his assist on Audette's first goal, his 45th this season. ... Nashville had allowed just one goal in the third period in its last six games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press