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Preds Around the Holidays: A Look Back at Some Historic Holiday Games

by Jimi Russell / Nashville Predators

Each year, the National Hockey League takes a two-day break from play on Dec. 24 and 25 to allow players and staff to enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. While those days are stressful for everyone, the days surrounding the holiday break have been very generous to the Nashville Predators.

– December 23 –

The 23rd is the final day of play before the holiday break and since their inception, the Nashville Predators have played 12 games on this date, posting a record of 6-3-(3)-0 during that span. The Preds have faced off against 10 different teams on the 23rd – Columbus (twice), Dallas, Detroit, Florida (twice), Los Angeles, Minnesota, the New York Rangers, Ottawa, St. Louis and San Jose.

Here are some of the Dec. 23 games that stand out in Preds history:

Dec. 23, 1998 – Preds face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings in an ice storm
Nashville 5, Detroit 3 at Bridgestone Arena

In the final game before their first holiday break, the Preds took on the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings in front of a sold-out Bridgestone Arena crowd. It was the first time in franchise history the Preds hosted the Wings, and was the only victory for the Predators against the defending champs during their inaugural season.

The Red Wings got on the board early on a goal from Brendan Shanahan, but the Preds responded with four straight goals to take a 4-1 lead into the final minute of the middle frame before Hall-of-Famer Steve Yzerman pulled the Wings back within two. Scott Walker extended the Preds lead back to three goals with his second tally of the game early in the third before Yzerman notched his second of the game with less than two minutes remaining to cement the Preds 5-3 victory.

Cliff Ronning also posted two goals for Nashville, while Patric Kjellberg, Sebastian Bordeleau and Andrew Brunette pitched in a pair of assists each. With starting netminder Mike Dunham on the shelf due to injury, Tomas Vokoun got the nod in net, stopping and impressive 50 of 53 shots in the victory. The save total still stands as the third-highest in a single game by a Preds goaltender.

Dec. 23, 2000 & Dec. 23, 2006 – The Preds and Penalty Shots
Nashville 3, New York Rangers 2 (OT) at Madison Square Garden

The Preds and Rangers traded a pair of goals through regulation, with Nashville getting goals from Kimmo Timonen and Scott Walker, to end in a 2-2 stalemate after 60 minutes.

In the overtime period, David Legwand bested Kirk McLean in the one-on-one battle to secure the 3-2 win for Nashville, it marked the first time a game had been decided in overtime by a penalty shot in National Hockey League history.

On the same date six years later, Legwand would convert another penalty shot – he has two of the Preds seven all-time penalty shot goals – in 7-0 drubbing of the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena. The game was the first in franchise history in which the Predators were awarded two penalty shots in the same game. The Kings’ Dan Cloutier had stopped Paul Kariya on a penalty shot earlier in the contest.

Nashville 7, Los Angeles 0 at Bridgestone Arena

The Predators posted the largest margin of victory in franchise history at the time, as they downed the Kings 7-0 on Dec. 23, 2006, at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds would match the margin of victory two years later in another 7-0 victory over the Kings – both games still rank as the second-highest margin of victory in Preds history.

J-P Dumont led the Preds with four points (2g-2a) in the contest, while David Legwand and Jason Arnott each posted two goals for Nashville. Rookie Alexander Radulov posted the first three-point effort (3a) of his career.

– December 26 –

While the rest of us are still putting away our gifts and trying to wake up from the holiday hangover, the Predators are back to work playing games on the day after Christmas. Nashville has played 12 games on Dec. 26 since the 1998-99 season, posting an even 6-6-(0)-0 record on Boxing Day. The Preds have faced off against seven different teams on the 26th – Chicago (twice), Colorado, Dallas (twice), Detroit (twice), St. Louis (three times), Tampa Bay and Washington.

Here are some of the Dec. 26 games that stand out in Preds history:

Dec. 26, 1998 – Preds down both 1998 Stanley Cup Finalists in back-to-back games
Nashville 3, Washington 1 at Bridgestone Arena

The 3-1 victory over Washington signaled more than the franchise’s first three-game winning streak. That victory, coupled with a 5-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings just three days earlier, meant that the expansion Predators had beaten both teams that had played in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals in back-to-back games.

"This team just totally amazes me," head coach Barry Trotz said. "We beat Detroit, then a couple of guys go down and we beat Washington. We keep putting parts in there and they're doing their jobs.”

The wins combined for an all-around 120-minute effort by Nashville; Nashville’s goals came off the sticks of six different players, the Preds held the opposition’s power play scoreless on six attempts and chased both starting goaltenders – Detroit’s Chris Osgood and Washington’s Olaf Kolzig – from the games.

The win over Washington also marked David Poile’s first victory over his former club. Poile served as Washington’s General Manager from the 1982-83 season until the end of the 1996-97 season, when he took the reins of the budding Predators franchise. In his 15 years in Washington, the Capitals advanced to the postseason 14 times and compiled a record of 596-454-124 (.559), ranking among the NHL's top five teams during that span.

Dec. 26, 2000 – Scott Walker notches first Preds hat trick on Bridgestone Arena ice
Nashville 5, Colorado 2 at Bridgestone Arena

Scott Walker gave Preds fans a late Christmas present as he posted the first hat trick on Bridgestone Arena ice in a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche – a team featuring Hall-of-Famer Joe Sakic, the owner of the first hat trick in building history. Walker’s effort came 13 months and 16 days after Rob Valicevic notched the first hat trick in franchise history at Chicago.

In witnessing a hat trick for the first time, Preds fans started the celebration a bit early when Walker scored his second goal with 6:15 left, as hundreds of hats started flying because they thought it was his third – an earlier goal originally credited to Walker was changed to Patric Kjellberg. Those still in possession of their headwear received another opportunity to honor Walker when he clinched the trick for real with a shorthanded empty-net tally with only 15 ticks left on the clock.

"It's a big thrill," Walker said. "I wasn't that concerned. Two goals for me is huge, three goals is just unbelievable. It's extra special for me to do it at home. To do it at home is just great, because the fans have been so great to us here."

Dec. 26, 2002 – Goals 30 seconds apart spark Preds win
Nashville 3, Dallas 1 at Bridgestone Arena

In a hard-fought contest between the Preds and Stars, Kimmo Timonen got the Preds on the board early with a pretty goal set up by Clarke Wilm and Scott Walker.

Despite being held to only three second-period shots, Dallas was able to tie the game with a power-play goal just minutes into the middle frame.

Nashville continued their strong defensive effort into the third, outshooting Dallas 16-7 in the final period. The Preds picked up goals from Scott Hartnell and David Legwand just 30 seconds apart – Hartnell fired a one-timer from the slot that was deflected past Marty Turco at 6:20 and Legwand got on the board at 6:50 when he banged home his own rebound – to secure the 3-1 win for the Preds.

Dec. 26, 2006 – Radulov nets the first shootout goal of his career
Nashville 3, St. Louis 2 (SO) at Bridgestone Arena

Rookie Alexander Radulov converted his first NHL shootout attempt to lift the Preds over the Blues, 3-2. As Nashville’s final shooter, Radulov skated in, deked and shelved a backhander to beat Blues netminder Manny Legace for the win.

"I think in a shootout you have to have a little bit of composure," Trotz said. "This kid has ice water in his veins. He has been doing shootout moves in practice. He doesn't want to get off of the ice. I have seen some pretty impressive moves, so I thought, what the heck."

Paul Kariya had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell scored midway through the third period for the Preds. Goaltender Chris Mason stopped 30-of-32 shots and all four shooters in the post-overtime skills competition to notch the win for Nashville.

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