The Nashville Predators returned from a 3-1-1 west coast road trip to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night for the much-heralded 1000th game in franchise history celebration.
Color, pageantry, and memories were the theme of the evening. The Preds' first draft pick, David Legwand, was assisted by original captain Tom Fitzgerald and first goalie Mike Dunham in the ceremonial puck drop.
At the end of the evening, the Preds left with a single point after Max Pacioretty put a wrister past Pekka Rinne, in overtime to give Montreal the 2-1 victory. "It was a seeing eye puck that went just under the crossbar," is how Preds' Coach Barry Trotz described the shot.
The sold out crowd of 17,113 was excited right from the opening puck drop. The Predators didn't seem quite as ready to start the game. They were somewhat out of kilter in the opening period and gave up a goal to David Desharnais 13:49 into the game to go down 1-0.
Trotz explained, "Coming back from a long road trip, everybody was a little lethargic in the first period. As advertised, we always like to have 7:00 games and this one was at six, so we started at seven."
The Predators looked better after the first intermission and tied the game 3:20 into the second period on a big slapshot from Shea Weber that came short-handed during a Montreal power play. The score remained tied 1-1 through regulation forcing the overtime period.
The game against the Habs is always highlighted on the schedule for Preds defenseman Francis Bouillon who is from the Montreal area and played all but four games (which was with the Preds in 2002) of his NHL career there before joining the Nashville team.
"It's been three years that I'm here, but it is always special to play against them. I spend most of my time either here or there (Montreal) so obviously, when we play them, it's always special for me."
Bouillon explained the flow of the game. "They came out well in the first period. We didn't play the hard pressing game at the start. We played a little better in the second and third periods. We faced a really good team tonight, very skilled and very fast and they played well."
Blake Geoffrion played his first game against Montreal where his grandfather "Boom-Boom" and great-grandfather Howie Morenz were Hall of Fame legends. He was excited for the game but it wasn't as big of a family event as you might expect.
"My mom and dad are on an anniversary trip. My grandmother couldn't make because my uncle in Atlanta had surgery. It’s kind of funny, everyone was asking if I had a bunch of family here for the game and actually I didn't tonight."
Peter Budaj got his first win of the year for Montreal, evening his record at 1-1-0 as he stopped all but one of the Predators 26 shots. Pekka Rinne played well, stopping 23 of 25 Montreal shots as he saw his record fall to 8-4-3.
Rinne was disappointed with the loss on a big night. "The atmosphere was really good. It was our 1000th game. Of course you want to win for the fans. We did everything we needed to do for a win but still came up short."
Trotz refused to blame all the festivities for the slow start out of the gate. "I think the organization as a whole managed quite well. I don't think it was a real big distraction at all. I think they just moved their cheese a bit with the 6 p.m. start."
After a day off on Sunday, the Predators return to the ice on Monday to prepare for Tuesday's home match with the Washington Capitals at 7 p.m. CST.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass