OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Round 1 - Part 1)
You Get to Decide Our Ultimate Winner!
Under normal circumstances, we’d be talking about March Madness, obsessing over our brackets, and gearing up for three weeks of absolutely zero productivity at work (that last part is actually the norm for me, even when basketball’s not involved).
So, since we all need a fun distraction, we’re making our OWN tournament bracket. And since this is a Predators site, we’re doing this hockey style!
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!
Here’s what we did... the fine folks at OnTheForecheck have put together what we think are the best 32 games in team history. But as we know, the selection committee doesn’t always get it right. So it’ll be your votes that decide each match-up. You’ll have two days to vote for your favorites. After that, the game with the most votes moves on to Round Two.
How did we decide this list, you ask? It’s easy. They’re simply the games that stand out the most in our minds. Maybe it’s a wild comeback. Maybe it’s a game with some historical context. Or maybe there was so much chaos that we remember every detail of every minute of the game.
Now... on to the matchups!
We’re splitting Round One into two separate voting blocks. This is our left side of the bracket (so if your favorite game isn’t on here, don’t worry! More games are coming!).
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.
#8 Saros’s 46-Save Shutout (December 14, 2017)
This game went from “forgettable” to “unforgettable” in a span of two periods, thanks to their second-year goaltender.
The Predators were getting smoked by Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, giving up 24 (!!!) shots on goal in the first period. But Juuse Saros stopped every single one. Spurred by their backup goaltender standing on their head, the Preds’ offense finally turned on the jets in the second period, scoring four goals. The Preds won 4-0, and Saros finished with 46 saves in the shutout, STILL a team record for most saves made in a shutout.
Which Game Was Better?
|#1 Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final (2017)||104|
|#8 Saros’s 46-Save Shutout (2017)||5|
#4 The First Win in Team History (October 13, 1998)
There was a bunch of team history written during this game: first goal, first power play goal, first win. That makes this night memorable on its own. But a lot of people forget the game itself was chaos.
The first goal in team history, scored by Andrew Brunette, almost didn’t count, and the Predators went on to add two more goals to take a 3-0 lead thirteen minutes into the game. But that lead vanished by the end of the first period, as the Hurricanes made it 3-2. Luckily, Mike Dunham, the team’s O.G. starter, shut down Carolina’s offense the rest of the game, making 34 saves to earn the franchise’s first “W.”
#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.
Which Game Was Better?
|#4 The First Win in Team History (1998)||29|
|#5 Predators Finish Off The Blues (2017)||80|
#3 Sullivan’s Debut Hat Trick (February 18, 2004)
“Hi Smashville. I’m Steve Sullivan, and I’m your new player. To show you my worth, I’m going to single-handedly destroy the San Jose Sharks and bring you much joy.” - What I’m assuming Steve Sullivan said after this game.
Just two days after the Predators flipped two draft picks to Chicago for the veteran winger, Sullivan emphatically made his presence known with a hat trick in his debut game (four points overall), leading Nashville to a 7-3 win over the Sharks. This game forever cemented Sully as a Smashville fan-favorite, but he was far from the only star here. Scott Walker had a four-point night of his own, and Marek Zidlicky tallied five assists, a record that still stands to this day. All of this happened in front of a hot Smashville crowd that were trying to will the Preds to their first home playoff appearance.
#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 engrained 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.
Which Game Was Better?
|#3 Sullivan’s Debut Hat Trick||42|
|#6 Pekka Scores!||70|
#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.
#7 Kariya to Forsberg FTW (February 24, 2007)
Alright, let’s put away our hindsight goggles for a moment and just think back to this moment as our 2007 selves. We had two of the best players of our generation playing together in our trademark mustard alternates, and teaming up for a highlight reel goal to beat — at the time — our most hated rival.
The Predators and Red Wings, who had been neck-and-neck in the Central Division race all year, were once again locked in a spirited, back-and-forth game. Detroit appeared to lock things up with a late power play goal, but Paul Kariya scored with a minute left to send the game to overtime. Minutes into overtime, Kariya would set up another league legend, Peter Forsberg, for a game-winning goal that still lives on as one of the most highlight-reel worthy in team history. It was Forsberg’s first goal with the franchise, and would help spur a late-season run of 14 points in his final 15 games.
Which Game Was Better?
|#2 Halischuk Wins it in 2OT||66|
|#7 Kariya to Forsberg FTW||39|
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.
#8 Bordeleau’s OT Winner (January 30, 1999)
This game is famous for being the Predators’ first overtime win in franchise history. But when you add in all the context surrounding that historic goal, this game moves into “instant classic” territory.
The Predators’ first matchup with the New Jersey Devils, in the midst of a three-Cups-in-nine-years run, was going about as well as you’d expect. The Devils went up 2-0 in the first period and were in control of the game. But the Preds fought back to tie it late in the third. Then, 2:43 into the extra period, Sebastien Bordeleau snuck a shot past Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur to give Nashville the 3-2 win—not a bad finish for your first overtime win in team history.
Which Game Was Better?
|#1 Fight Night in Smashville||92|
|#8 Bordeleau’s OT Winner||9|
#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.
#5 Filip Forsberg’s Penalty Shot Winner (February 13, 2018)
You know what they: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” And boy, this was a finish.
The Predators were down 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues with 11 minutes left in the game. From there, the comeback was on. It started with a Calle Jarnkrok goal, then two from Austin Watson in a 1:15 span (the first one coming shorthanded). That would take us to overtime, where Filip Forsberg would end the game on — of all things — a penalty shot.
Which Game Was Better?
|#4 Fiala Caps Game 3 Comeback||73|
|#5 Filip Forsberg’s Penalty Shot Winner||32|
#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.
#6 Hockey Returns to Smashville (October 5, 2005)
536 days. That’s how long Preds fans had to wait between competitive games at Bridgestone Arena. Not only was this Nashville’s first game after the lockout, it was the debut of Paul Kariya — at the time, the biggest star to ever don a Predators sweater.
And, of course, this game couldn’t end without Kariya making his presence known. The Preds were down 2-1 in the third until Kariya’s first goal with his new team tied the game. Then, with just over four minutes remaining, Scott Hartnell put home the game-winner to give Smashville a memorable “Welcome Back.”
Which Game Was Better?
|#3 Predators’ First Game Seven Win||91|
|#6 Hockey Returns to Smashville||14|
#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.
#7 Preds Open Season in Japan (October 6, 2000)
Entering year three of their franchise, the Predators hadn’t had many chances to play on national stage, much less an international one. But the 2000-2001 season opener provided the team with a nice change of pace.
The Predators and Penguins opened the NHL season with a two-game stint in front of a packed crowd in Omiya, Japan. The game was clearly meant to showcase the Penguins (who had stars like Jaromir Jagr, Alex Kovalev, and Robert Lang) to the international crowd. But it would be the upstart Preds who made a statement. Scott Walker and Vitali Yachmenev each had two-point nights, and Mike Dunham shut down Pittsburgh’s high-scoring stars to give Nashville the upset, 3-1 on opening night. The fact that this happened on national TV with the rest of the league watching made this a memorable night.
Which Game Was Better?
|#2 Smithson’s Game 5 Heroics||89|
|#7 Preds Open Season in Japan||14|
That’s it for Part 1! Check back later to see which matchups are moving on.