March Madness: Best Predators Game of All Time | On The Forecheck, Sarah Hager, Nick Morgan
Do you have a favorite? Cast a vote to move it into round two!
College basketball may be over, but here at On The Forecheck, we’re keeping the spirit of March Madness alive! We’ve put together a tournament to crown the best game in Nashville Predators history. The best part? You — yes you! — will get to decide the ultimate winner!
Last week, we started our tournament with the left side of the bracket, and we’ve already seen a couple of upsets, and several closer-than-expected votes!
Now, we’re moving on to the right side of the bracket. Here’s how it works. You’ll have two days to vote for each matchup. When the polls close, the game with the most votes will move on to the next round.
Let’s get to the matchups!
The “Dramatic Overtime Thriller” Bracket
#1 Fisher Wins It In Triple-OT (May 5, 2016)
Lower Broadway’s bars may have experienced the biggest after-midnight Cinco de Mayo rush ever, thanks to the final shot of the longest game in Nashville Predators’ history.
Mike Fisher’s rebound goal 111:12 into Game 4 gave the Predators a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks, and leveled the second round series at two games apiece. It was the Predators’ third multi-OT game in a two-year span, and the first they had won since 2011.
While the lasting memory of this game will forever be Fisher’s goal, it’s the rest of the action that helps make this an instant classic. A wild Smashville crowd willed the Preds to an early 2-1 lead, only for the Sharks to battle back and take a late lead. But James Neal’s goal with just over four minutes left sent the game to overtime, and in the process, gave us one of the most-GIF’d moments in team history.
The three overtimes had their fair share of scares as well. The Sharks had a would-be game-winning goal overturned due to goalie interference, and Pekka Rinne was forced to make several highlight-reel stops during two San Jose power play opportunities.
Play-by-play announcer Chris Cuthbert summed this up by saying “we’ve seen everything.” It’s hard to disagree.
#8 Preds’ Four-Goal Third Caps Comeback (February 1, 2001)
The vast majority of fans who watched this probably went to bed in disgust halfway through the second period. The ones who stayed up? They were rewarded with an epic comeback.
Just four minutes into the second period, the Los Angeles Kings scored their fourth goal of the game to take a 4-1 lead over the Predators. All seemed lost until Bill Houlder cut the lead to 4-2 right before the end of the period. That proved to be the spark that ignited the Predators’ biggest comeback at that point in history. The Preds scored four goals in the third en route to a 6-4 win. Captain Tom Fitzgerald led the way with a three-point night (2 G, 1 A), while Rob Valicevic, Greg Classen, and the aforementioned Houlder had multi-point efforts of their own.
#4 Preds Finally Finish Wings (April 20, 2012)
The first 13 years of the Predators-Red Wings rivalry was kind of like Stranger Things… except the Preds were the Mind-Flayers, and Detroit were the teens of Hawkins. Sure, the monsters reached plenty of havoc in town and had their fair share of destruction in terms of big wins. But when the season ended, it didn’t matter, because even though Eleven Lidstrom and company may have suffered a few losses, they always won the war.
But in 2012, that narrative finally changed. The Predators had the dynamic young core, while the Red Wings’ big guns were starting to lose steam. That showed in a playoff series dominated by Nashville from start to finish, culminating with Nashville’s series-clinching Game 5 win in front of an ecstatic Bridgestone Arena Crowd. David Legwand scored the game-winning goal just thirteen seconds into the third period, and Pekka Rinne stopped 21 of 22 shots to FINALLY knock their arch-rivals out of the postseason.
#5 Welcome to Smashville, P.K. (October 14, 2016)
In the season opener at Bridgestone Arena, Subban tallied the Preds’ first goal of the season… a rocket from the blue-line that ended with P.K.’s trademark celebration at center ice. That was just the beginning of a dramatic season opener that featured two fights (including Jonathan Toews squaring off against James Neal for some reason) and three Predators power-play goals. The last one, from new Captain Mike Fisher, wound up being the game-winner, and propelled the Preds to a 3-2 season opening win over their rivals.
#3 The “Ice Storm Game” (December 23, 1998)
It’s one of the biggest wins in team history, and it almost didn’t happen. An ice storm in late 1998 shut down much of the mid-south, including chunks of Tennessee. Conditions were still poor two nights before Christmas, and as a result, the team considered postponing the Preds’ first home game against the two-time defending champion Red Wings.
Instead, the game went on as planned, and thank goodness it did. The Red Wings put 53 shots on goal, but it still wasn’t enough to prevent the massive upset. Tomas Vokoun, who was still the team’s third-string goalie, made 50 saves in a performance that helped him earn a full-time gig in Smashville. On the other end of the ice, Scott Walker and Cliff Ronning each scored two goals, while Sebastien Bordeleau, Patric Kjellberg, and Andrew Brunette each added a pair of assists to propel the Preds to their first marquee win.
#6 Legwand’s Historic Game-Winner (December 23, 2000)
It’s not every day a third-year team gets to make history in a league that’s been around for 80+ years, but that’s what happened two nights before Christmas in 2000. (Man, these early December 23rd games just hit different.)
The Predators and Rangers had battled to a 2-2 tie at Madison Square Garden. In the extra period, David Legwand was tripped on a breakaway opportunity. He was awarded a penalty shot, and suffice to say, he didn’t waste his opportunity. Legwand wristed a shot past Kirk McLean for the first ever overtime-winning penalty shot goal in NHL history. That wasn’t the only heroic moment for a Predator either. Scott Walker’s goal with just under two minutes left is what sent the game to OT in the first place.
#2 Arnott Caps Miracle Comeback (April 14, 2008)
Most people believed the 2008 Predators had no business being in the postseason. And two games into their opening round series against the Red Wings, that looked like an accurate sentiment. Detroit had a commanding 2-0 series lead entering Game 3 in Nashville. But it only took a nine-second swing to flip the series on its head.
The Red Wings had a 3-2 lead late in the game and were four minutes away from making it a 3-0 series. That is — until Ryan Suter tied the game with 3:57 left. Off the ensuing faceoff, Jason Arnott won the puck, streaked down the right wing, and fired a rocket passed Dominik Hasek for the go-ahead goal… nine seconds after the tying goal. Martin Erat added an empty netter to give the Preds a 5-3 win, giving us a series.
Side note: let’s all ignore the celebration after Arnott’s goal.
#7 Rinne Gets Win #300 in 7-1 Win (February 22, 2018)
Midway through the 2017-2018 season, it became clear Pekka Rinne would become the 34th goaltender in NHL history to cross the 300-win plateau. But how it happened raised a few eyebrows.
The Predators hosted the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena with Pekka’s milestone on their mind. Most expected a close, back-and-forth game. But that showdown never happened. The Predators dominated from start to finish, beating the Sharks 7-1, and putting 46 shots on Aaron Dell. Rinne did get his moment in the sun afterwards via a standing ovation from the Smashville faithful after the game.
The “You’ll Always Remember Your First” Bracket
#1 The First Cup Game in Smashville (June 3, 2017)
From the sea of gold on Lower Broadway, to the Preds flags adorning every business and restaurant in Middle Tennessee… this was a straight-up party for Preds fans. And the game that followed only cemented this as one of the most memorable moments in Tennessee sports history.
The Penguins had a 2-0 lead entering Game 3, and an early goal from Jake Guentzel put a damper on the celebration. But goals from Roman Josi and Frederick Gaudreau 42 seconds apart gave the Preds a lead, and from there, the rout was on. James Neal, Craig Smith, and Mattias Ekholm all added goals to give Nashville a 5-1 win, and a moment fans would remember forever.
#8 Birth of the Standing O (April 3, 2008)
As mentioned earlier, most people didn’t believe the Preds had any business being in the 2008 playoff discussion. But thanks to the faster-than-expected development of a young defensive core, career years from Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, and a record-setting hot streak from goaltender Dan Ellis, the Preds found themselves in control of their own destiny.
The Predators needed a win over the Blues in their home finale to clinch a berth in the playoffs. The two were tied with just under five minutes remaining, until Greg de Vries hammered home the go-ahead goal. With the Preds clinging to a 3-2 lead at the final TV time-out, the home crowd stood up, clapped, and cheered through the entirety of the final break. With that, the tradition of the “Smashville Standing Ovation” was born… and with the win, the Preds were back in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
#4 Vokoun’s First Shutout (January 15, 1999)
The goaltending situation in the Predators’ inaugural season was a mess. But one gift it did provide was the rise of third-stringer Tomas Vokoun. The 22-year-old already had a few high-profile wins under his belt by mid January, but this one against the Phoenix Coyotes proved historic.
Vokoun stopped all 31 shots he faced, including two breakaway chances, to collect the first shutout in Predators history. And turns out, the Preds needed every single save. They clung to a 1-0 lead for most of the game, and it wasn’t until an empty-netter with 59 seconds left that the Preds could breathe easy.
#5 The First Home Playoff Game (April 11, 2004)
Preds fans had waited six years to see their team compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And when it finally happened, Nashville was sure to give their crowd a show.
David Legwand’s shorthanded goal off a steal opened the scoring, and 1:22 later, Adam Hall added another to give the Predators a 2-0 lead over the Red Wings. From there, it was Tomas Vokoun who stole the show. The Preds’ netminder stopped 41 of 42 shots, and the Predators escaped with a 3-1 win. Not bad for Smashville’s first taste of playoff hockey.
#3 The First Playoff Series Win (April 24, 2011)
The Predators had never won more than two games in a playoff series. But thanks to some dramatics in the previous Game 5 (which we covered in Round 1 – Part 1), the Predators had a chance to get their first series win. And they got to do it in front of their home crowd.
Like the prior game, Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks came down to the final moments. Nick Spaling put the Predators up 3-2 early in the third period, but the Ducks wouldn’t back down, peppering Pekka Rinne for the final ten minutes. Finally, with ten seconds left, David Legwand secured the series win with an empty-net goal. In the words of Pete Weber… “Yo, Adrienne, they did it!”
#6 Preds Get First Road Playoff Win (April 16, 2010)
An odd distinction of the Predators early playoff runs… they lost their first ten road playoff games. Finally, in the first game of their fifth playoff series, they broke through.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Predators battled through a tight Game 1. Patrick Kane eventually put the Hawks up 1-0 in the second period. But two quick goals in the third by J.P. Dumont put the Predators back in front. Pekka Rinne preserved the lead with a strong game down the stretch, and Nashville added two empty net goals to give themselves a 4-1 win, and exorcise their road demons.
#2 Predators 8, Red Wings 0 (February 28, 2009)
The Predators had been the Red Wings’ “little brother” in the Central Division for their entire existence. This game felt like the first time the little brother beat big brother in driveway basketball. Except little brother then took the ball, threw it in big brother’s face, then knocked the backboard on top of him.
Ville Koistinen scored four minutes in. Second later, David Legwand made it 2-0. Then Joel Ward scored. Then Antii Pihlstrom scored. Then Jason Arnott scored. By the time the first period ended, the Preds had a 5-0 lead, and chased starter Ty Conklin from the net. The Predators kept adding to their lead. Jason Arnott completed his hat trick, and Pekka Rinne made 30 saves to secure the 8-0 shutout. Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont joined Arnott with three-point games of their own.
#7 Predators-Jets Line Brawl (October 11, 2018)
Thanks to their physical seven-game series five months prior, there was still bitterness between the Predators and Jets at the start of the 2018-2019 season. That became evident thanks to this chaotic game.
Things started innocent enough. But after a few big hits and scrums after the whistle, it was clear a “powderkeg” moment was near. That came with five minutes left in the second period when Miikka Salomaki hit Nikolaj Ehlers after the whistle, setting off a full line brawl between the two teams (and led to the badass Ekholm-Sissons “punching in sync” GIF.) The game itself proved to be a statement for the Preds as well. They shut out the Jets 3-0, closing the door on a revenge game five months in the making