Barry Trotz felt fresh as a daisy – or so he thought – as he sat at home Friday, his first full day there in more than a week.
The Nashville Predators coach had been away and in different time zones with his team for all or parts of the previous nine days. He and his players arrived home early Thursday morning following an all-night flight from Anaheim, where they capped a stretch of three victories in four games.
“I thought I was fine and two minutes later fell asleep,” he said. “… It’s something that you deal with.”
The effect on his team lasted for roughly the first 20 minutes of its game the next night against the Montreal Canadiens – the 1,000th regular season game in Predators history.
Nashville eventually overcame a sluggish start before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena to the point that it forced overtime. Halfway through the five-minute, four-on-four tiebreaker, though, Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty’s shot found its way under the crossbar and left the Predators to deal with a 2-1 defeat.
Nashville had scored at least three goals in each of the previous seven games.
“We talked about it and we tried to make a point not to make any excuses,” captain Shea Weber said. “They always say that the first game home after a long road trip is like you’re still on the road because of the time change and the long travel. But I don’t think we can use that as an excuse, we had a day off and practiced [Friday].
“We should have been ready to play.”
Montreal outshot Nashville 8-4 over the first 20 minutes, won 56 percent of the faceoffs and forced twice as many giveaways (six) as it committed (three). Most important was the fact that it got a goal from David Desharnais with 6:11 to go and took that 1-0 advantage into the first intermission.
It was the first time since Oct. 25 against San Jose, and just the fourth time overall in 16 games the Predators trailed after one period. They have yet to win a game (0-3-1) in that situation.
“I think it was more us being a little lethargic from getting home at six in the morning – sleep habits change and you feel funky, a little bit,” Trotz said. “I think everybody does. As the game went on, we started to wake up and play our game.”
Nashville outshot Montreal 22-17 the rest of the way and committed just seven more giveaways over the final two periods plus the 2:31 of overtime. Weber’s shorthanded goal at 3:20 of the second period tied it, but no one managed to get a go-ahead tally.
As a result, the Predators enter this week as one of six Western Conference teams with 19 points (that accounts for fifth though 10th place) but are the only ones of that group not averaging more than a point per game at home. They are 2-2-2 with their next four, beginning Tuesday against Washington, all set for Bridgestone.
Their six home games thus far are the fewest of that group.
“We were definitely excited,” Weber said. “We were home after a long road trip, the 1,000th game and there’s a lot of guys in here that were drafted by the organization. So it was a meaningful game. It would have been nice to get two points, but we’ll move forward.”
At least they won’t have to go anywhere at 30,000 feet or more for the next little while.
“You fly for four hours, and it’s kind of the hangover of flying and getting home at six in the morning,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “But no excuses. We came in the second period with all we had and played hard, and we played hard in the third period.
“So that’s all you can ask for.”