OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (The Championship)

And then... there were two.

We’ve finally reached the conclusion of On The Forecheck’s quest to crown the best game in Nashville Predators history.  We started with 32 games, and thanks to your votes, we’ve whittled the contest down to two.

And, speaking from my own personal perspective, it’s the two games I thought we’d end up with.

OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Round 1 - Part 1)
OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Round 1 - Part 2)
OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Round 2)
OTF March Madness: Best Games in Preds History (Elite Eight)
OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Final Four)

#1 Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final (May 22, 2017)

On one side of the bracket, we have the game that finished with the Predators posing with the Clarence Campbell Bowl.  For many of us, this was a moment forever etched into our memories.  In an instant, we watched two decades’ worth of heartbreak and frustration fade into affirmation that the Predators belong alongside the league’s elite teams.

But lost in the emotion is the fact that, from a pure hockey standpoint, this was one of the most entertaining games the Predators have ever been a part of.  The 6-3 final score isn’t indicative of how in-doubt this game was until the last minute.

The Preds jumped out to a hot start, scoring twice in the first nine minutes of the game.  But after that, the Anaheim Ducks took over, out-shooting Nashville 23-4 until the start of the third period.  Thanks to what may have been Pekka Rinne’s best game of the playoff run, the Preds hung tight to take a 2-1 lead into the third.

It looked like the Predators might have buried the dagger into Anaheim’s backs early in the third with Colton Sissons’s second goal of the game, giving Nashville a 3-1 lead.  But goals by Chris Wagner and Cam Fowler just three minutes apart tied the game, and with Anaheim still putting constant pressure on Rinne, it looked like the Ducks might steal the Preds’ crowning moment.

That all changed with six minutes left in the game.

Calle Jarnkrok set up Colton Sissons’s one-timer to give him his first career hat trick, and more importantly, put the Preds ahead with time winding down.

Even with the lead, there was still a sense of doubt that Nashville could hold on.  After the Ducks pulled Jonathan Bernier for the extra attacker with just under three minutes left, it looked like the Preds would have to survive one last extended onslaught to get the win.  That was until Filip Forsberg made the play of the game... a 170-foot nearly-no-look shot into the empty net to extend the Preds’ lead.  Austin Watson scored one final insurance goal, and from there, the celebration was on.

What made this game so special?  It had a little bit of everything... a memorable finish, an unexpected hero, a goaltending performance for the ages (Rinne made 38 saves in the performance), and to top it all off, the realization that the Predators would FINALLY get a shot in the Stanley Cup Final.

#1 Fisher Wins It In Triple-OT (May 5, 2016)

On the other side of the bracket, we have the game that put Predators fans through 111 minutes of anxiety.  But the payoff....

...My goodness, the payoff.

The San Jose Sharks historically had the Preds’ number in the postseason.  And entering Game 4 of the 2016 playoffs, they once again had a 2-1 series lead over Nashville.  The start of the game was not unlike the previous few games of the series.  The two went back-and-forth trying to gain momentum.  But every time one team would pull the game in their favor, the other grabbed it right back.  Colin Wilson scored first, only for San Jose to answer immediately.  Mike Fisher put the Preds back up 2-1, but Joonas Donskoi leveled it once more.

After a tight start to the third period, Barrett Jackman took a kneeing penalty.  Just five seconds into the ensuing power play, Brent Burns put the Sharks up 3-2.

But staying true to the rest of the game — and the series — the Preds would grab momentum right back.

With 4:21 left in regulation, James Neal scored arguably his biggest goal in a Predators uniform, slipping the game-tying goal past Martin Jones.  Little did we know that would be the last goal scored for nearly 60 minutes.

Historically, playoff OT games tend to slow down a bit once they hit the extra periods.  We see teams take fewer chances, sit back, and wait for the other teams to give them an opening.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen here.  Both teams had their fair share of legitimate chances right off the bat.

It looked like San Jose got the better of the Preds when Joe Pavelski slipped the puck past Pekka Rinne in the first OT.  But the Preds got life when — in a decision still disputed by Sharks fans to this day — the goal was overturned, and the game continued.

For 40 minutes, we watched both teams squander chance after chance to end the game.  But 11:12 into the third overtime, it was finally Mike Fisher who stepped up to be the hero.  His game-winning goal leveled the series, and kickstarted one of the wildest Cinco de Mayo celebrations Lower Broadway had ever seen.

While the series didn’t end the way Preds fans had hoped, this may have very well been the Predators’ most critically-acclaimed games in team history.  Some pundits went as far to call it the best NHL game of the 2015-2016 season.  NHL on NBC play-by-play announcer Chris Cuthbert described seeing “a little bit of everything” that night, and it’s hard to argue.

So now we ask you, Preds fans.  Which of these games deserved the be called the best game in Nashville Predators’ history?

Which Game Was Better?

Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final 59
Fisher’s Triple-OT Winner37