On his knees after clearing the puck out of the Predators' zone, forward Scott Walker watched it roll slowly - ever so slowly - toward Colorado's tempting empty net.
Would it eventually cross the goal line? Would it even reach the goal line?
"It was like slow motion getting there," Walker said. "It was just curling in, curling in toward the net and I was just hoping it would get there. I wasn't sure."
In time, Walker's attempt did indeed reach its intended target, securing the Predators' hard-fought 5-2 victory over a powerful Colorado team on Dec. 26, 2000.
It also proved a milestone tally for the franchise, as Walker's goal meant he'd registered the first home-ice hat trick in Predators' history.
Preds fans rewarded him with a standing ovation. Most supporters, however, had already thrown their hats to the ice after Walker's second goal. They were unaware an earlier goal originally credited to Walker was given to Patric Kjellberg.
"It was kind of crazy how it all happened, but I think anytime you do things that are special, especially with a young organization, it obviously meant a lot to us all there," said the 44-year-old Walker, one of the Predators' expansion draft picks in 1998.
"You might not think as much about it at the time, but now when you look back at it and you're going, 'Wow, what a special time it was to be there.' That was a big one. But there were a lot of great moments there."
Walker helped produce many of those great moments for the Predators, as he developed from an energy player into a multi-skilled - and mighty feisty - forward. He spent seven years in Nashville, and when Walker left following the 2005-06 season, he was the franchise leader in goals (96), points (247) and penalty minutes (465).
"If there is such a thing as a founding fathers or foundation pieces, Scott Walker was one of the biggest pieces of the Predators history," general manager David Poile said after trading Walker during the 2006 offseason. "He was a heart-and-soul type of a guy that gave it his all. He scored goals, he fought, he did a lot of different things, and for that we'll always be grateful and appreciative."
The Predators saw potential in Walker when they plucked him from Vancouver's roster, but couldn't have imagined the contributions he would give them. He arrived in Nashville with 97 games of NHL experience, but Walker had never scored more than four goals nor totaled more than 18 points in any of his four seasons with the Canucks.
Walker found himself in-and-out of Vancouver's lineup more often than he would have liked as a youngster, which is why he was unsure of himself in his early days with the Predators. He credits Poile and former Predators coach Barry Trotz for their handling of unproven players.
"I think a lot of guys that were picked up in expansion are very fragile - they've been up and down, moved around and traded," Walker said. "But Barry and David and the coaches really handled that well. Because when you have a fragile group, things could go wrong in a hurry. But they made us feel so comfortable. We just focused every day on playing hard every night and learning the system, and to be honest, I think that's all you could really expect from us."
Walker put together a pair of 25-goal seasons for the Predators, once in 2000-01 when he totaled 54 points and once in 2003-04 when he produced a career-best 67 points.
But despite his increasingly prolific numbers, the Cambridge, Ontario, native never lost the healthy streak of nastiness in his make-up. Walker was only 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, but he fought 21 times during his stint with the Predators, usually with a ferocity that thrilled Nashville's fans.
"He was probably, pound for pound, one of the toughest guys I ever played with," former Preds teammate Jason York said. "For a little guy, he could really fight. He was just the kind of guy that would do anything to win - he was scrappy, skilled and played the game the right away."
Walker, who would go on to play four more NHL seasons after leaving Nashville, remains very involved in the game today. He's a player development consultant for Vancouver, an assistant coach for Canada's 2018 Olympic team and co-owns the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm.
Married with two children and living in Cambridge, Walker followed the Predators' 2017 run to the Stanley Cup Final with interest. He knows the Preds of the early years played no tangible role in last season's historical success, but Walker hopes he and his teammates helped build the franchise into what it is today.
"To me, it's like the foundation and characteristics of that team we set were there for so many years," Walker said. "It's a franchise that's never really had to go and completely reset the dial, like some other teams. I'm hoping we were part of the foundation. Hopefully, we were helpful in laying at least some of the groundwork."