It’s almost time to ring in not only the new year but also a new decade. Established in 1998, the Nashville Predators have completed just their second full decade in the NHL. As one the younger teams in the league, it was not that difficult for the 2010s to be more successful than the 2000s for the squad located in the Music City.
But what are the most memorable and significant moments from the 2010s for the Nashville Predators?
April 16, 2010 – Predators’ First Road Playoff Win
The Predators made the playoffs for four straight seasons from 2003-04 to 2007-08. All four series ended after a loss in the first round and without a single win on the road. In 2008-09 the Predators missed the playoffs. But, in the following season, Nashville returned to the playoffs to face the Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators, the seventh seed in the Western Conference, were the road team to kick off the series with the second-seeded Hawks.
The dreaded road game did not fill experts and fans with optimism. However, J.P Dumont had other ideas when he tied the game in the third period 1-1, then tallied his second shortly after, putting the Predators ahead in the game. They never relinquished the lead. Jared Smithson and Martin Erat added two more goals and the Predators, after scoring all four of their goals in the third period, skated away with their first playoff road win in franchise history.
March 20, 2011 – Blake Geoffrion Records a Hat Trick
The Predators have seen 40 hat tricks in their history. Among those names in the record book sits Blake Geoffrion’s hat trick he tallied against the Buffalo Sabres back in 2011. There have been 39 other Predators’ hat tricks, why is Geoffrion’s significant? Well, Geoffrion was the first Tennessee native in the NHL.
He was born in Florida, but moved to Nashville when he was one, showing that hockey in Nashville spread further than just what is now known as the Bridgestone Arena. Geoffrion was also a fourth-generation player.
April 22, 2011 – Predators’ First Overtime Playoff Win
In the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals the Predators found themselves facing off with the Anaheim Ducks. In all their playoff appearances prior to 2011, the Predators had played past the regular 60 minutes just three times, each time finding themselves on the wrong end of the game-winning overtime goal.
However, at the end of Game 5 during the first round series in 2011, the Predators and Ducks were tied at three. Just 1:57 into the first overtime period, Jordin Tootoo fed Smithson in the slot, who then beat the Ducks’ goalie Ray Emery. The Predators’ bench erupted as every player rushed onto the ice to give Smithson the obligatory, celebratory face-wash synonymous with hockey. This was the first time in the history of the Predators that they were victorious in the sudden-death phase of a playoff game. Most, if not every Predators fan knows where they were when this historic moment in Predators history unfolded.
April 24, 2011 – Predators’ First Playoff Series Win
Shortly after the last Predators’ great moment – their first playoff overtime victory – came their next one, their first playoff series win. Up three games to two, the Predators had a chance to end the series at home in front of their fans, the fans that had been waiting for over 10 years to see their team on the right side of the handshake line.
With a Ducks’ goal from forward Jason Blake with 1:37 left in the second period, the game was tied at two heading into the third. If not for a big period from Pekka Rinne, a goal from Nick Spaling early in third and David Legwand sealing the deal with his empty net tally the Predators may have been looking at a Game 7 back in Anaheim. Obviously, as it turned out the stage was set for Legwand to allow the sellout crowd and Predators fans everywhere to breathe easy and look forward to the first second round appearance in franchise history after he slid the puck into the open cage.
April 20, 2012 – Predators Finally Defeat Red Wings in the Postseason
Since the Predators’ inception in 1998 there had always been a big brother/little brother dynamic with the Predators and Detroit Red Wings. Needless to say, the Red Wings were definitely despised in the Music City. The two teams had met twice already in the postseason prior to 2012, with the Red Wings defeating the Predators both times. Obviously, the animosity was heightened.
The 2012 series was different. The Predators had built a team that looked like they could go the distance. Detroit was trending in the opposite direction after raising their championship banner in 2008. The series was nothing like the previous two clashes. After splitting the first two games, the Predators took over the series and never looked back, winning three straight and sending their “big brother” packing after the five-game series win.
The series win was something special for both the Predators and their fans. They weren’t new to series wins. But, because this was a victory over a Red Wings team that immensely tormented the Predators for years it was a sweet, relieving feeling. It seemed possible that this was the changing of the guard, that this rivalry could be more back and forth rather than the big brother beating up on the little brother. It felt like the Predators had finally arrived.
The Predators are currently considered Stanley Cup contenders and they are starting to pile up playoff series wins. But, in an executive box in Bridgestone Arena for visiting general managers during games hangs the iconic photo of the handshake line when the Predators took down the Red Wings. Clearly, this victory still holds a special place in the staff’s, players’ and fans’ hearts.
April 23, 2015 – Forsberg Records a Playoff Hat Trick Against the Blackhawks
It was Game 5 of the first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2015 Playoffs. The Predators were heading home down 3-1 in the series needing a big win. The Blackhawks had a roster full of stars and big-time scorers, something the Predators had never had. Like many other seasons in the Predators’ history, they were searching for a goal scorer they could rely on, someone they could go to in games they needed to win. Enter Filip Forsberg, the young Swede that had a lot of hype and had just completed his first full season with the Predators.
Forsberg came up clutch with a hat trick, helping the Predators defeat the Blackhawks 5-2 and force a Game 6 in Chicago. They ultimately lost the next game and were eliminated. But Nashville was left with optimism that their defensive team filled with defensive and goaltending stars could finally have a legitimate threat on offense for the future.
Jan. 29-31, 2016 – Nashville Hosts All-Star Weekend
All hockey eyes were on the Music City on All-Star Weekend in 2016. The Predators were able to showcase how the south shows up for hockey during the mini-break the league takes to display the biggest and brightest stars in the game.
The Predators were well represented with James Neal, Roman Josi, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne all flying the gold flag during the weekend.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to match this year in and year out,” Predators’ former head coach Barry Trotz said, who was coaching the Metropolitan team at the time. “And for the city of Nashville, for the NHL, I think Nashville set the bar really, really high.”
Trotz told Jessica Bliss of The Tennessean, “It’s going to be very, very hard for the next cities to match what Nashville did here. So, they can be very, very proud.” (from ‘NHL All-Star weekend big hit for Nashville, The Tennessean, 31/01/2016).
These sentiments were echoed by all that attended, from the players to the commissioner, Gary Bettman, to Predators’ President and CEO, Sean Henry. The event put Nashville on the map in the hockey world and no doubt did wonders for growing the game in the south.
April 29, 2016 – Predators Defeat Ducks in Franchise’s First Game 7
The Predators met the Ducks again in the first round of the 2016 Playoffs. The two teams were very familiar with each other and were very evenly matched. The Ducks were the higher seed and therefore were the home team for the deciding Game 7. The Predators had played in win or go home games before, but they had never played in a one-game, winner takes all contest.
The Predators came out of the gates strong, scoring twice in the opening frame courtesy of goals from Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad. With both teams failing to score in the second, the Predators took the ice with a two-goal lead entering a massive third period. However, the Predators’ long-time nemesis, Ryan Kesler did not want fans to calmly watch the clock run down, scoring less than two minutes into the final regulation period.
But, once again the Predators leaned on Rinne and came away with a 2-1 victory. Nashville eliminated the Ducks for the second time in the postseason.
May 5, 2016 – Predators Win Longest Game in Franchise History
The Predators and San Jose Sharks were tied at three after the second overtime of Game 4 in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ second round. Fans dedicated enough to stay up that late were about to experience true hockey elation.
Having dropped the first two games of the series in San Jose, the Predators were in a position to tie the series after a Game 3 victory back in Nashville.
As May 5 turned into May 6, the Predators were looking at either giving the crowd something to erupt over or heading back to San Jose down three games to one. They elected to go with the former. Mike Fisher drove to the net, picked up his own rebound and deposited it past Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones, sparking the famous Pete Weber “go ape everybody” call and ending the longest game in Predators history. Every Predators fan remembers where they were when they were “going ape.”
May 9, 2016 – Arvidsson Forces Game 7 with OT Goal
Although not as arguably suspenseful as Fisher’s triple overtime goal four nights prior, Viktor Arvidsson sent the crowd home just as happy when he scored just 2:03 into the first overtime period. However, the goal meant more to the series, if you can rank them, as the Predators were facing elimination down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Miikka Salomaki flipped the puck into the neutral zone where the speedy Arvidsson skated on to it, showing why he’s known as “Arvi Hustle.” The right-handed shot Arvidsson held off the defenseman, protecting the puck on his backhand. About two feet inside the faceoff dot in the offensive zone Arvidsson threw a backhander to the net, which beat Jones above his glove-side shoulder. Although it didn’t go down in the record book as one of the longest games, Predators fans were still just as happy to leave with a win shortly after regulation concluded.
May 22, 2017 – Predators Crowned Western Conference Champions
In a meeting with, surprise, the Anaheim Ducks, the Predators took to the ice in Game 6 of the 2017 Western Conference Final up 3-2 in the series. Colton Sissons recorded a hat trick and sent a dagger into the hearts of the Ducks and their fans.
The Predators were dealing with big injuries to Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala, but that didn’t stop them from hobbling onto the ice for the team picture with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.
June 3, 2017 – Predators Record Their First Win in Stanley Cup Final
In reality, the whole Stanley Cup Final series could be given for this moment. But, if narrowing the moment down, it seems fitting to go with June 3. The Predators returned home to a city that rallied around them and couldn’t have been prouder despite being down 2-0 in the series. The city was electric. Everywhere you looked Nashville was decked out in Predators’ gold. Flags were flying from cars and bar patios. Broadway looked like the Music City had just held fashion week and Predators jerseys were in.
Needless to say, the city was amped up and from the moment the puck was dropped on the evening, and the Predators did not disappoint. After the Penguins opened the scoring, the Predators scored five unanswered to defeat Pittsburgh 5-1. Nashville recorded their first Stanley Cup Final win of the series and in franchise history.
The Predators followed up their Game 3 performance with another decisive win in Game 4. Despite the heart-breaking series defeat, the Predators asserted themselves as one of the league’s best teams and a legit Cup contender moving forward.
Feb. 22, 2018 – Rinne Records 300th Career Win
The Predators earned a dominant 7-1 victory against the Sharks, receiving tallies from seven different goal scorers, but that wasn’t the headline when the final buzzer sounded. With the victory, the Predators’ franchise goaltender, Pekka Rinne, had 300 wins to his name. The Finnish netminder took his spot as the 34th goaltender in NHL history to achieve the feat. Rinne also became the third Finnish goalie to collect 300 NHL wins, joining Miikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen.
March 1, 2018 – Poile Becomes Winningest GM in NHL History
The Predators defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on March 1, 2018 and with the win Poile collected his 1320th career victory as an NHL general manager. Poile passed Glen Sather for the all-time mark. Poile has never won the Stanley Cup. However, most Predators fans would probably agree, despite their GM not having a championship ring, it’s nice to have someone on their team considered as the best the game has ever seen.
Another top Predators moment involving Poile took place on Dec. 13, 2018, when the general manager was inducted into the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame, a ceremony that was fittingly held in Nashville.
April 5, 2018 – Predators Clinch First Central Division Title and Presidents’ Trophy
The Predators squared off with the Washington Capitals for their penultimate game of the 2017-18 regular season. Nashville’s 4-3 win over their Eastern Conference foes meant that the Predators clinched both the Central Division title as well as the best record in the Western Conference.
Nashville wasn’t done with accolades for the night though. Although they needed help, the Predators could wrap up the Presidents’ Trophy shortly after the conclusion of their own game. The Florida Panthers were squaring off against the Boston Bruins, with the Predators needing a Panthers’ win. Forward Jared McCann put Florida ahead 3-2 with just 5:37 left in the game and that was enough to secure a Panthers’ victory and the Presidents’ Trophy for the Predators.
June 20, 2018 – Rinne Wins First Vezina Trophy
Rinne has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy four times in his career, and was finally recognized as the NHL’s top netminder in 2018, earning 22 first-place votes from the league’s 31 general managers.
Steve Sullivan won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as a member of the Predators in 2009. But Rinne became the first player in the franchise’s history to win a performance-based award. For many seasons Predators fans have been advocating that Rinne be officially seen the same way they see him, as a truly elite, league-best and potentially hall of fame goaltender.
It has been quite the decade for the Nashville Predators filled with immense growth and momentous milestones. The Predators will look to continue to build on the franchise’s progress in the 2020s. They were able to check off another first immediately, playing in their first outdoor game when they faced-off with the Dallas Stars in the 2020 NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1.