Thursday’s 30-minute special on Fox Sports Tennessee featuring the Top 10 moments in franchise history got me thinking. Some of the rankings, in my opinion, were questionable. Here are FS Tennessee’s rankings:
1. First playoff game/win, 2004
2. First TV timeout ovation, 2008
3. Steve Sullivan’s hat trick in Preds debut, 2004
4. 8-0 win vs. Detroit, 2009
5. 2003 NHL Entry Draft, hosted by Nashville
6. Shea Weber’s first All-Star Game, 2009
7. Steve Sullivan’s return from injury, 2009
8. First win in franchise history, 1998
9. First road playoff win, 2010
10. Comeback in Detroit, 2003
David Legwand’s penalty shot OT goal, 2000
Two goals in nine seconds, 2008
Peter Forsberg’s OT goal vs. Detroit, 2007
All of these are great moments in Predators franchise history. However, I have my own point of view on what the ranking should look like. Let’s start the countdown at No. 10 and work our way to No. 1…
10. First road playoff win – 2010
Aside from advancing past the first round, it was the proverbial hump that Barry Trotz and company couldn’t get over: a road win in the playoffs. Trotz got the monkey off his back last season when his team went into the United Center and beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 of their first-round series. They entered the third period down 1-0, but a pair of J.P. Dumont goals and two late empty-netters sealed the franchise’s first ever win on the road in the postseason.
9. Paul Kariya signs as free agent – 2005
I was kind of surprised this was ignored on FS Tennessee’s program the other night. A good majority of Preds fans quickly turned on Paul Kariya when he left for St. Louis in 2007. However, two years prior to that, he called GM David Poile and expressed his desire to come to Nashville following the lockout as a free agent.
It was a huge moment for the franchise. Not only did his signing put the team on the map as a contender, but he made it ‘cool’ for other NHLers to come play in Music City. Kariya was the first true star in the team’s history and led the Preds to two straight successful seasons (their two best in franchise history). The next season, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont and Peter Forsberg (waived no-trade clause) decided to make their way to Nashville.
In his two years as a Predator, Kariya racked up 164 points in 164 games and brought the crowd to its feet countless times in the shootout.
8. Steve Sullivan returns, wins Masterton – 2009
Ever since he was acquired from Chicago and scored a hat trick in his debut, Sullivan has been a fan favorite. So when he was finally set to return from a two-year back injury, it was undoubtedly going to be a great moment. The moment he stepped on the ice on Jan. 10, 2009, the crowd gave him a rousing ovation. I don’t think there were too many dry eyes in the house.
It took a couple weeks to get back to top form, but once he did he took off; Sully had 27 points in the last 25 games of the 2008-09 season. His great comeback was capped off by winning the Masterton Trophy – the first time a Predator had won a trophy at the awards.
7. First franchise win – 1998
In their second game as an expansion team, Trotz’s Preds picked up their first win in franchise history. They had been shutout 1-0 in their inaugural game, but followed it by beating Carolina 3-2. In the game, Andrew Brunette scored the first ever goal and Mike Dunham was in net for the ‘W’.
6. 8-0 win vs. Detroit – 2009
Before this night, beating hated Detroit by eight goals was only a dream for Predators fans. It shockingly became reality on Feb. 28, 2009. One goal after another, the Preds scored five times in the first 11 minutes, sending Sommet Center into a frenzy. Ville Koistinen and David Legwand scored 29 seconds apart, and then Joel Ward, Antti Pihlstrom and Jason Arnott all scored 1:24 apart just a few minutes later.
Arnott recorded a hat trick, finishing off the 8-0 win late in the third period. Also, Pekka Rinne was not going to be beaten on this night, making great save after great save. I don’t think any Preds fans will forget this one!
5. Back-to-back wins in Detroit – 2006
As a result to Jiri Fischer’s scary seizure during a game in November 2005, the NHL postponed the contest until mid-January, setting up a back-to-back scenario IN Detroit. Two games, two nights… both at the Joe! The games were further magnified with the teams jockeying for the division lead.
On the first night, Tomas Vokoun stood on his head and made 39 saves to help Nashville edge the Wings 3-2. 24 hours later, Trotz and company completed the sweep. Steve Sullivan’s shorthanded goal tied the game, while Paul Kariya beat Manny Legace on a breakaway in overtime to seal the dramatic victory.
At the time, it was a monstrous pair of wins for the Preds franchise, as they vaulted the team to the top of the Central. With the playoff defeat in 2004 still fresh in the team’s memory, it made the back-to-back sweep that much sweeter!
4. Two goals in nine seconds, Game 3 – 2008
Another moment involving Detroit… and this one came in Game 3 of the 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Down 3-2 with under five minutes to go, the Preds were staring at an 0-3 series deficit to the top-seeded Red Wings. Everything shifted in Nashville’s favor in a blink of an eye.
Ryan Suter tied the game at three when his slapper eluded Dominik Hasek with 3:57 left. Nine seconds later, with 3:48 to go, Jason Arnott broke in and unleashed a bomb of a slap-shot to put the Preds up 4-3.
Instantly, a nervous building turned into pandemonium. The fans didn’t sit down and kept cheering the rest of the game, carrying their team to a much-needed Game 3 win over rival Detroit, by a score of 5-3. In my estimation, it was the second-loudest moment in the building’s history (second only to J.P. Dumont’s shorthanded goal in Game 2 vs. San Jose in 2007).
3. 2003 Entry Draft
The 2003 Draft has already gone down in history as one of the best draft classes in league history; 29 of the 30 players chosen in the first round played in the NHL! The event was hosted by Nashville, and it saw the team draft Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein. Suter and Weber are co-anchors on the blueline, while the team has gotten some good minutes from Klein in recent years. All in all, David Poile did a tremendous job at the 2003 Draft in Music City.
2. First playoff win(s) – 2004
Going into their first playoff series, the Predators weren’t given any chance to beat mighty Detroit. Even though they couldn’t knock them off, they gave them all they could handle. The first playoff game in Nashville was held on Easter Sunday and it was an electrifying atmosphere.
David Legwand kicked things off with a shorthanded goal, while Adam Hall and Scott Hartnell also chipped in to lift the Preds to a 3-1 win in Game 3. Two nights later, Vokoun shut the door in a 3-0 Game 4 victory that pulled the series even. I don’t think Preds fans will ever forget the team’s first trip to the playoffs.
1. First TV timeout ovation – 2008
The top moment in this franchise’s history goes to the fans. Though rare, spontaneous TV timeout ovations have become something of Nashville’s own, and the first one gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Holding a 3-2 lead against the Blues in the final home game (81st overall) of the 2007-08 season, needing a win to solidify their playoff chances, the game went to the final TV timeout of the third period. The fans responded by rising as one – and I emphasize spontaneously (no ‘Get Loud’ messages from the jumbotron, etc.) – giving the Preds a deafening 90-second ovation. The majority of fans used their t-shirt giveaway as rally towels, creating a playoff-like atmosphere. The Preds polished off the victory and punched their ticket to the playoffs with a Vancouver loss later that night.
The moment goes beyond lifting the team to a much-needed win, though. Between the Jim Balsillie fiasco, relocation rumors and the summer firesale that followed, the franchise had gone through their toughest time since joining the league; it was remarkable that the team was able to make the playoffs.
All of the frustrations from the off-ice issues were poured out during the ovation by the passionate Preds fan-base. It was almost a ‘We made it through as one’ message/gesture from the fans to the team.
Since then, the crowd has made their voice heard during a handful of these ovations. They don’t happen too often, which makes them so special.
Honorable Mention (no order):
Sullivan’s hat trick in debut, 2004
Downtown rally to support team, summer 2007
Comeback in Detroit, 2003
Comeback over Chicago, 2011
Peter Forsberg acquired from Philadelphia, 2007
Pulsating Game 2 win vs. San Jose, 2007
Ryan Porth for Preds On The Glass