Each of the seven victories the Nashville Predators accumulated over the course of a month during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was memorable in its own right. From clutch goals to game-saving stops, the excitement was infectious.
But three games stand out as not only high points of the postseason, but of the franchise’s history – moments that will be talked about for years to come.
After combing through the 2015-16 regular season archives to bring you the Top 10 games of the season, we now present a look back at three contests that provided moments of immeasurable jubilation last spring.
No. 3: April 27, 2016, Round One, Game Seven: Preds vs. Ducks (NSH 2, ANA 1)
The Preds opened the postseason in Anaheim, taking Games One and Two from the Ducks at Honda Center before dropping the next three. On the brink of elimination in Game Six back in Nashville, the Preds triumphed in an emotional victory to force the first Game Seven in franchise history.
Once back in Anaheim on April 27, it took the Preds just 6:19 into the game to strike first, courtesy of Colin Wilson. Nine minutes later it was 2-0 via Paul Gaustad’s redirect in front.
The Ducks tallied early in the third period, but Pekka Rinne and the Nashville defense took over for the remaining minutes. Rinne stopped 14 pucks in the third period alone - including a number of saves in the final minutes of regulation - to seal the club’s ticket to the second round for the first time since 2012.
“It’s a big step,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said after Game Seven. “I feel that if you can’t take this one step, you can’t take any more steps. That makes it a really big win for our guys and for our team. When you’re faced with these situations, you’re either going home or continuing to fight for the Cup. It was a big night.”
No. 2: May 9, 2016, Round Two, Game Six: Preds vs. Sharks, (NSH 4, SJS 3 F/OT)
Each of the two overtime games the Preds played in the postseason ended in jubilation; one just took much longer to get there. A stark contrast to the other, a marathon game detailed below, Game 6 provided sweet relief early with Viktor Arvidsson’s goal at 2:03 of overtime.The goal forced the team’s second Game Seven in as many rounds and provided reasons to jump for joy.
For one, it propelled the Preds further in the postseason than they had ever been before. And two, who doesn’t love a playoff overtime goal that works out in your favor?
After going down 2-0 in the first period to the Sharks, it appeared Nashville’s run may have been coming to an end. But Roman Josi gave the Preds life before the opening frame ended, and Ryan Johansen tied it early in the second.
San Jose seized the lead back in the third, but with seven minutes to play in regulation, Mike Ribeiro, James Neal and Colin Wilson went tic-tac-goal to even the score at 3-3, leading to Arvidsson’s exclamation point.
“It felt really good, awesome,” Arvidsson said of his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. “It was a great feeling to see the puck go in the net. It was awesome.”
The win ultimately ended up being the Preds last of the 2016 postseason, but after treating the home fans to four consecutive victories at Bridgestone Arena to close out their run, Laviolette couldn’t help but compliment the Smashville faithful.
“I have to tell you, the fans tonight were just incredible,” Laviolette said. “The building was unbelievable, and when you come down from elimination games, last round and this round, and you have a building like we do… the energy that we draw from that, that we pull from that, I can’t even tell you how important that is for our group. It was a great environment.”
No. 1: May 5-6, 2016, Round Two, Game Four: Preds vs. Sharks, (NSH 4, SJS 3 F/3OT)
First, just let the sights and sounds of what currently stands as the Predators greatest game in franchise history wash over you.
How did we get there?
Down 2-1 in their Round Two series with the Sharks, the Predators were looking for their second-straight victory and a tie series as they entered Game Four on May 5.
Nashville’s Colin Wilson scooped a loose puck into the net only 41 seconds into the contest, but the teams would trade goals through the opening 40 minutes to conclude 2-2 through two periods. Brent Burns’s second goal of the evening put San Jose up with 13:12 left in regulation, and the Predators found themselves in serious danger of going down 3-1 in the series.
A second opportunity for James Neal with under five minutes to play was the difference, however, as his shot found twine to force a 3-3 tie. That’s when the real fun started.
One overtime went by. Then a second.
Shots off the post, failed breakaways and a disallowed goal due to goaltender interference kept the action going. Finally, it was time for a third, 20-minute session with the stakes the same: one goal to end it.
Past 1 a.m. local time, the play happened. Wilson forced the puck out to Mattias Ekholm at the point, where the Swedish defender handcuffed the Sharks’ Martin Jones with a shot. On the doorstep, Mike Fisher tucked the puck around Jones for the Predators first-ever, playoff overtime win at home.
Bedlam ensued. Broadcasters emitted epic calls. And the legend began.
“We were just trying to do all we could do to just find a way, and everyone did a great job,” Fisher said. “Everyone in the lineup played solid, played hard. That was a great hockey game, and our fans had as much energy as anyone. Going out for that third [overtime period] they were unbelievable, and we tried to feed off of that a little bit too.”
“I don’t care how these wins come if we have to play all night.” Rinne said. “It’s a 2-2 series right now, and you can’t say enough about San Jose too. They have a great team, and they played a strong game, but like I said, it shows a lot of character when you pull out a win like this.”