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12 Moments that Defined Preds' 2016

Year Began with Trade for Johansen; Ended With Rinne as First Star

by John Glennon @glennonsports / jg1sport@aol.com

The past calendar year brought plenty of thrills for Nashville Predators fans, from blockbuster trades, to hosting the NHL All-Star Game, to overtime playoff contests.

Here's a chronological look back at a dozen of the Preds' most memorable moments from 2016:

Preds acquire Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones (Jan. 6) - In a big-time trade of fourth overall picks, the Predators added the first-line center they'd sought for years in exchange for a top-quality defenseman. Johansen, only 23 years old at the time of the trade, came to Nashville from Columbus, which had made him the fourth overall pick in the 2010 Draft. He made a big impact on the Preds' offense after arriving, totaling 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 42 regular-season games last year. Johansen leads the Preds this year with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 36 contests.

"We accomplished something we haven't been able to do in 18 years," Predators General Manager David Poile said following the deal. "We acquired a No. 1 center."

NHL All-Star Game (Jan. 30-31) - A total of four Predators - Roman Josi, James Neal, Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber - represented the team in the NHL All-Star festivities at Bridgestone Arena. Weber captured the Hardest Shot Competition with a 108.1 mile-per-hour blast. Nashville's first All-Star Game earned worldwide praise and featured a couple of unique storylines: The contest was the first played in the 3-on-3 format, and enforcer John Scott scored a pair of goals en route to capturing MVP honors.

"For the city of Nashville, for the NHL, I think Nashville set the bar really, really high," said Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz, the former Preds' bench boss. "Everything from the entertainment outside to the entertainment inside; the way they did things, it's got a very unique twist and it's going to be very, very hard for the next cities to try to match what Nashville did here."

Forsberg posts two hat tricks in three games (Feb. 23, 27) - In the span of just four days, forward Filip Forsberg became the first player in franchise history to record multiple hat tricks during the same season. Forsberg's scoring barrage began when he scored all three Nashville goals during a 3-2 victory over Toronto. Two games later, Forsberg struck again, scoring three times in a 14-minute span of the second period to guide the Preds to a 5-0 blanking of the Blues.

"He's obviously a skilled player that can shoot the puck really well," teammate Mattias Ekholm said after the game. "Right now they're just bouncing in for him. It's tough to describe, but he's been playing lights out lately."  

Forsberg ties franchise goal-scoring record (April 7) - Playing in just his second full NHL season, Forsberg tied the franchise's single-season, goal-scoring record when he scored his 33rd of the season. Forsberg, who was just 21 years old at the time, did it in dramatic fashion. With the Preds trailing Arizona 2-1 and just 18.3 seconds left in regulation, Forsberg beat Mike Smith to send the contest into overtime - where the Preds emerged victorious. Forsberg tied Jason Arnott's record, which was set during the 2008-09 season.

"It's pretty cool," Forsberg said afterward, "but right now I'm just really happy about the win."

Preds win first Game Seven in franchise history (April 28) - Heading into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Preds had never played in a Game Seven before. But their first experience in the critical game was a great one, as Nashville hit the road to edge Anaheim, 2-1, and capture the first-round series. Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad scored the goals for the Preds, and Pekka Rinne turned away 36 shots. The Preds had advanced to Game Seven by winning a Game Six when facing elimination for the first time in franchise history.

"Winning, especially winning in the playoffs, is just an amazing feeling," Wilson said. "It's a lot of camaraderie, bringing guys together. Game Seven was a fun game to play in, and it was a huge one for the franchise."

Preds down Sharks in triple overtime (May 5) - The Predators won the longest game in franchise history during the second round of the playoffs, when Mike Fisher scored at 11:12 of the third overtime in a 4-3 victory over San Jose. That game tied the best-of-seven series, 2-2, in front of a delirious Bridgestone Arena crowd. Neal was responsible for sending the game into overtime, after scoring with just 4:21 left in regulation. When Fisher's goal ended the contest, at least a couple of exhausted Predators players fell over the boards as they went to celebrate on ice.

"We were all so tired," Fisher said. "Just to see the crowd erupt and guys falling everywhere on the bench, it was pretty awesome. It feels like for the whole team, no matter who scores, those ones in the playoffs or overtimes are the best."

Arvidsson scores playoff overtime goal (May 9) - For the second-straight time on home ice, the Predators went to overtime during their second-round playoff series against San Jose. And for the second-straight time, they came out on top. Viktor Arvidsson's goal just 2:03 into overtime - a backhander that beat Martin Jones - gave the Preds a 4-3 victory and sent the series back to California tied 3-3. Earlier in the contest, the Predators had rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2, tying the game for the last time on Wilson's goal.

"Unbelievable," Arvidsson said afterward. "I didn't see it go in at first. The crowd went crazy, and I just didn't know what to do. It was really nice."

Preds acquire Subban for Weber (June 30) - In a stunning trade that featured two of the NHL's best defensemen, the Predators added the speed, skill and excitement of P.K. Subban in exchange for the powerful shot and physical presence of Shea Weber. The Preds believed Subban would be a better fit for the team's up-tempo, offensive style than Weber. In acquiring the entertaining Subban from Montreal, the Predators added a former Norris Trophy winner and All-Star who'd totaled at least 50 points in each of the past three seasons. In his first 29 games with Nashville, Subban has totaled 17 points - seven goals and 10 assists.

"He is the modern-day defenseman," Poile said following the deal. "I really feel that the way the game is being played now, how we're acquiring our players, our decision-making process, it would start at the top with players like P.K. Subban."

Preds extend Laviolette contract (Oct. 1) - After making the playoffs twice in as many years under coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators extended his contract by two years - through 2020-21. Laviolette had guided the Predators to an 88-52-24 mark in his first two seasons. He'd finished third in the voting for the Jack Adams Award in 2014-15 when the Predators piled up 47 wins and 104 points. The Preds will be looking to make the postseason for the third-straight year under Laviolette in 2016-17, as opposed to missing the playoffs - which was the case in each of the two years before Laviolette arrived.

Subban scores in season-opening win (Oct. 14) - The Predators couldn't have asked for a more entertaining season opener, as Subban scored in a 3-2 victory over Central Division rival Chicago in front of a sellout crowd in Nashville. Subban even put a little change into his traditional goal-scoring celebration, as he pretended to throw a lasso in what he said was a nod to his former teammate Carey Price.

"I know Price is going to be proud of me," Subban said afterward. "You know I just get fired up every now and then, just trying to express my emotions."

Sick Preds whip Stanley Cup champs (Oct. 23) - Things looked grim for the Predators as they prepared to face Sidney Crosby and the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville had lost three-straight games going into the contest and was playing without Rinne, Fisher, Craig Smith and Colton Sissons due to illness. But in a glimpse of the future, rookie goalie Juuse Saros stopped 34 shots to pick up his first NHL victory, and young forwards Kevin Fiala and Arvidsson each scored two goals in a 5-1 Preds win.

"It was great to get my first NHL victory," Saros said afterward. "It was an amazing thing. It was even better to get it against Pittsburgh since [Marc-Andre] Fleury was one of my early idols. I have spent a lot of time watching his highlights."

Rinne NHL First Star of the Month (November) - Pekka Rinne put together a tremendous November to become the first Preds player to ever receive the NHL's First Star of the Month. He posted a 9-1-2 record, along with a 1.49 goals-against average and .949 save percentage - the latter two figures the best he'd record in a calendar month during his career.

"A lot of credit goes to my teammates, too, but it did feel nice," Rinne said. "When you think about the whole League, every team has world-class players. When you get recognized out of every single player, it did feel nice. It was a really good month and we played extremely well as a team."

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