It was a night to think back.
Except for those who played the game. For them, it was think quick.
Speed was the order of the night as the Nashville Predators faced the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in a meeting of two of the league’s fastest teams. That meant defensemen had less time to make decisions, goalies had to be ready for a shot in an instant and forwards needed to keep their feet moving at all times.
About the only thing that did not happen at a frenzied pace was goals. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty scored from the left wing circle with 2:29 to play in overtime and sent the Predators to a 2-1 defeat before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena, which turned out for the 1,000th regular season game in franchise history.
“In overtime, they say it’s never a bad play to throw the puck at the net,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It was a seeing eye puck. It went right under the crossbar, and that’s it.”
The shot brought a sudden end to a contest that featured many aggressive counter attacks but not a lot of shots — Nashville had a 26-25 edge — as each side attempted to stay a step ahead of the other.
“They have some small [forwards] but they can definitely fly,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “… We knew we were going to generate some chances if we got pucks past their [defense]. They’re very aggressive on the half-wall and that led to some odd-man rushes but I think we turned too may pucks over at the blue lines and that led to too many chances for them.”
Montreal started quickly and went ahead 1-0 with 6:11 to play in the first period. David Desharnais beat everyone to the front of the net where the puck went off his skate and in. A video review determined that he did not kick it past goalie Pekka Rinne.
Nashville, which played its previous five on the road, settled in during the second period. Weber’s shorthanded goal at 3:20 tied it, and that’s where the score remained until the extra period.
“You definitely have to be quicker,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They came out of the gates flying. We were a little hesitant to start, but I thought the second and third period we were skating good. We were pushing the pace.”
The Predators managed just four shots in the opening 20 minutes as the Canadiens kept them pinned in for an extended period several times. After that, though, they had a 22-17 edge.
Still, the one memory from this game that is not likely to vanish in a hurry is that of a 5-on-3 that started 3:25 after Weber tied it and lasted 47 seconds. Nashville’s only shot during that time was from Weber but missed the net.
“You get a 5-on-3 you should score or at least get a couple better chances,” Weber said. “… We didn’t score.”
The night started with a look back through some franchise highlights all the way to the first game. The team’s original captain, Tom Fitzgerald, and the starting goalie in the first game, Mike Dunham, attended and took part in the ceremonial faceoff.
Occasional remembrances and videos aired throughout the contest in a celebration of a history that is relatively brief compared to that of Montreal, one of the NHL’s grand and enduring teams.
“It’s funny because you look across and you have Montreal — I don’t know how many games they’ve played,” Suter said. “They’re probably just sitting there laughing and thinking to themselves.
“But it’s exciting for our fans and for [Trotz] and David Poile and Paul Fenton — guys who have been here since Day One. We’re happy to see the city so strong with support.”