On a night to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Catch" that launched the 49ers' dynasty, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and other franchise greats said they hoped a new legend would be born Saturday.

"Their defense is scary," Montana said, speaking of the current team. "I'm not sure anyone wants to line up against them right now. The Saints are playing really well, but I guarantee you, in their mind, they're thinking about that defense."

Montana, Clark, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig gathered on stage for what was billed as "San Francisco Legends Live" at the Nob Hill Masonic Center. The iconic names traded memories -- and zinged each other with one-liners -- at the event designed to salute Clark's famous grab against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game played on Jan. 10, 1982.

But for much of Tuesday night, talk drifted toward the modern team, which hosts a playoff showdown this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. The legends drew comparisons between current coach Jim Harbaugh and Hall of Famer Bill Walsh, with Craig noting that both leaders got players to perform "as an extension of each other."

The next step will be doing it in the playoffs.

"You've got to believe that right now, this week, it's about dreams," Lott, the Hall of Fame defensive back, said. "There is an opportunity to seize the moment."

Rice, appropriately, said that the key to beating the Saints this weekend would be the offense's ability to capitalize on red-zone opportunities, a season-long weak spot. The NFL's all-time touchdown leader noted that David Akers broke his scoring record this season only because the team settled for field goals so often.

"It's going to be very, very important for this offense to score in the red zone," Rice said. "That's how you're going to put pressure on New Orleans. (The Saints) have a lot of playmakers ... but I think our defense is going to match up pretty well with them."

Matt Maiocco and former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area co-hosted the event, but they didn't have much to do. The ex-49ers kept the conversation rolling among themselves, with an easy, often hilarious rapport that sounded a lot like a locker room from the 1980s.

When Rice thanked Clark for teaching him a speed route, Montana interrupted them with mock surprise. "Wait. Dwight ran a speed route?" he said, prompting laughter from other players.

But "The Catch" got its due, too. Clark made the signature 6-yard catch on a play called Sprint Right Option, and it propelled the 49ers toward the first of five Super Bowl titles.

Clark and Montana recalled how Walsh made them rehearse the play over and over again in training camp, often with ugly results.

"Joe never got it right," Clark said. "He'd throw it too low or way over my head. ... It was only under duress, with three people in his face and throwing off his back foot -- the magic of Joe Montana -- that he put it in the exact right spot."

Contact Daniel Brown at dbrown@mercurynews.com.