March Madness: Best Preds Game of All Time | On The Forecheck, Sarah Hager, Nick Morgan
It’s Round Two in our quest to crown the best Preds game ever!
College basketball may be over for the year, 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!
Voting for Round Two of OTF March Madness begins today. The first round featured its fair share of upsets, including a couple that I would just like to say “YOU GUYS ARE WRONG!” about.
But that’s the beauty of this vote. It’s not up to us. This is up to you!
You guys know the drill. You’ll have two days to vote for your favorite games. The winners will move to our “elite eight.”
The “Campbell Bowl” Bracket
#1 Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final (May 22, 2017)
A hot start in front of a wild crowd, a recovery from a near-collapse, a hat trick from an unlikely hero, and to cap it all off… a trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. There’s a reason this game is our top overall seed.
The Predators put away the Anaheim Ducks in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals thanks to a game for the ages. The Ducks had rallied back from a 3-1 hole late in the third period, and had most of the momentum. But Colton Sissons would step up to play hero, scoring his third goal of the game with six minutes left to give the Preds the lead once and for all. Filip Forsberg’s empty net goal from his own end of the ice sealed the deal, the Predators won 4-2, and got to celebrate with the Clarence Campbell Trophy… all in front of a raucous Bridgestone Arena crowd.
#5 Predators Finish Off The Blues (May 7, 2017)
The Predators had gone 0-3 in franchise history when it came to second round playoff match-ups. And despite having a 3-2 lead on the St. Louis Blues, there was still some doubt as to whether the Preds could actually seal the deal.
Paul Stastny put the Blues up 1-0 just moments into Game Six, and it looked like St. Louis might push the series to a seventh game. But Roman Josi tied things up in the second, Ryan Johansen added the go-ahead goal early in the third, and Pekka Rinne stopped 23 straight shots en route to a 3-1 win, and a 4-2 series victory. It was the first time (and to date, only time) the Predators would advance to the Western Conference Finals, and… well… we know what would happen after that.
#6 Pekka Scores! (January 9, 2020)
One moment can make an entire game memorable, and that’s what puts this game on the list.
The image of Pekka Rinne handling the puck behind his net, settling into position, and rocketing a shot 200 feet into the Blackhawks’ empty net will forever be ingrained into our memories. (The celebration afterwards may be even better.) But the goal was just the cherry on top for Rinne, who made 29 saves to preserve Nashville’s 5-2 win over Chicago. This wound up being John Hynes’s first win behind the Predators’ bench… not a bad night overall.
#2 Halischuk Wins It In Double OT (April 30, 2011)
The Predators’ clash with the Canucks in the second round of the 2011 playoffs — the first time the Preds had ever advanced to Round 2 — produced several memorable moments (remember Joel Ward randomly turning into the NHL’s hottest scorer?). But maybe none were more memorable than Nashville’s heart-stopping double-OT win in Game 2.
Roberto Luongo and the Canucks shut out the Preds 1-0 in Game 1, and 58 minutes into Game 2, it appeared we were about to experience deja vu. But with the net empty, and just 1:07 remaining in regulation, the Predators FINALLY broke through with a flukey Ryan Suter goal to tie the game. What followed was more than thirty minutes of back-and-forth overtime action. Finally, Matt Halischuk (of all people) became the hero with the game-winner 14 minutes into double overtime, evening the series with a 2-1 win.
The “Angry Hockey” Bracket
#1 Fight Night in Smashville (October 30, 2003)
There’s a reason old school Predators fans often describe this as one of their favorite regular-season games. This one had a bit of everything: a back-and-forth game that came down to the final seconds, the start of a decade-long rivalry, the berth of a Smashville tradition, and, of course, lots of pure chaos.
The game featured nine fights and 210 penalty minutes (both still Predators franchise records), highlighted by Adam Hall taking on two hall-of-famers in Adam Hall and Brendan Shanahan, Jordin Tootoo giving up 8 inches in height to fight Mathieu Dandenault, and that infamous Jiri Fischer “one punch” knockout of Scott Hartnell. There was also Steve Yzerman’s ejection for continually arguing with the referees, and Scott Walker leveling Kirk Maltby after a goal. Oh yeah, and the first appearance of a catfish on the ice at Bridgestone Arena… phew.
And lost in all of that, the actual hockey was great too! The Preds rallied back from an ugly first period to go up 3-1. But every time it appeared they had the game on lock, the Red Wings would rally back. It wasn’t until Rem Murray’s empty netter in the closing seconds that the Preds could finally breathe easy with a 5-3 win. This is where many believe the Preds-Wings rivalry really got off the ground.
#4 Fiala Caps Game 3 Comeback (April 17, 2017)
If you’re someone who loves to ponder alternate realities and fantasize “what if” scenarios, look no further than this game. Because if this comeback didn’t happen, who knows how the 2017 playoffs play out.
The Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena with a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks, thanks to back-to-back shutouts from Pekka Rinne. But twelve minutes into Game 3, it was the Blackhawks who stole momentum with two early goals. For two periods, it looked like Chicago was going to make this a series. That is — until Filip Forsberg took over the game. Forsberg scored twice in the second period, including the game-tying goal with just over five minutes left. In overtime, Kevin Fiala maneuvered his way around a sprawling Corey Crawford to bury the game-winner, giving the Predators a 3-0 series lead, and paving the way to the first sweep in franchise history.
#3 Predators’ First Game Seven Win (April 27, 2016)
It’s hard to believe that the Predators had played in ten playoff series before finally seeing one that lasted seven games. But hey, better late than never! The Preds’ first round series against the Anaheim Ducks wasn’t their smoothest playoff showing. They had a 2-0 series lead before dropping three straight to the Ducks, then gritted out a Game 6 win to force a seventh and deciding game in Anaheim.
The game itself proved to be a reflection of the whole series. Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad put the Preds up early, but Anaheim took control of the game quickly after that. It became clear that Pekka Rinne was going to have to deliver a performance for the ages to keep the Preds in front. Spoiler alert — that’s what happened.
Rinne made 36 saves, including two point blank chances on Corey Perry with a minute left to preserve the Predators’ 2-1 win, and propel them into round 2.
#2 Smithson’s Game 5 Heroics (April 22, 2011)
The Preds’ playoff reputation was… let’s say “less than stellar” entering the 2011 postseason. The team hadn’t won a playoff series and seemingly accrued a lifetime’s worth of heartbreaking collapses or mishaps in just five series (ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS HOLD THE PUCK, ERAT!) Luckily, in Game 5 of the Preds’ series against the Anaheim Ducks, the team flipped the narrative.
The Predators and Ducks entered Game 5 in Anaheim tied at two games apiece. Thanks to a late third period goal, Anaheim had the lead, and looked like they might be returning to Nashville with a chance to clinch the series. But with the net empty, Shea Weber snuck a shot past Ray Emery with just 36 seconds left in the game to force overtime. Two minutes into the extra period, the Predators’ fourth line re-wrote history. Nick Spaling, Jordin Tootoo, and Jerred Smithson executed a tic-tac-toe play worthy of a top line that resulted in the overtime winner, sending Nashville home with a chance to win their first playoff series.
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
#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.
#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!”
#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.