The sell-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena was as loud as ever for Game Four of the Predators first-ever playoff series, which saw Tomas Vokoun stop 41 shots to shutout the heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings, and knot their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at 2-2.
Steve Sullivan notched the first goal of the game at 10:44 of the first, and Vladimir Orszagh and Greg Johnson followed suit with goals of their own in Nashville’s 3-0 victory.
“It's great. I was happy... and you want to stay down to earth,” Vokoun said. “It's 2-2, and I wish that was a 40-save shutout in Game Seven and we won and you could enjoy it more. I'm going to enjoy it. It's great. There's not much better you can do.”
The Predators were outshot 41-20 for the game, and a combined 83-41 in the two games in the Music City, but Vokoun was a brick wall, stopping all but one of the shots he faced to send the series back to Detroit tied.
“We give up a lot of shots, but a lot of shots I'm able to see and they have got to be doing something right. It's all about that. If you can see, you can stop it,” Vokoun said.
Though the Preds would fall in the series four games to two, Vokoun’s performances in the two wins provided some of the most memorable moments in franchise history.
April 13, 2007: Dumont scores shorthanded GWG in Game Two vs. San Jose
Three years to the date after the Predators notched their first playoff shutout, J.P. Dumont provided another bit of postseason franchise history, scoring a game-winning goal with a shorthanded tally in the team’s 5-2 victory over San Jose in Game Two of their 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals series. The win sent the series out to Silicon Valley tied at 1-1.
"Now it's going to be a best-of-five,” Dumont said. “We have to make sure we come up strong out there. They are going to have their fans behind them so we have to make sure we are ready for those games.”
The goal was the third of four straight for the Preds in the first and second periods, and the first of two markers in 2:30 for Dumont. Nashville came strong on the penalty kill all night, stopping the Sharks on all five attempts, including an extended five-on-three in the middle frame.
“The penalty killers did an outstanding job tonight,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “We killed off some important penalties; the five-on-three, the five-minute major. We had great goaltending, we got a little bit lucky, and that made for an outstanding night for them.”
The Predators set a number of franchise records in the victory. Five goals scored was a high, and Dumont’s four goals in the first two games of the series set a franchise mark for goals scored in a playoff series.
April 14, 2008 – Preds go from trailing to leading in nine seconds
Things looked grim for the Predators after they fell behind 2-0 to the Red Wings in Game Three of their 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals series, but how quickly things can change. Nashville got on the board at 12:53 of the second period, then it took just over two minutes more to net the equalizer when David Legwand converted a J-P Dumont pass on a two-on-one at 15:01 in the second period.
The Red Wings came out of the second intermission with a renewed swagger, quickly breaking the tie when Pavel Datsyuk converted an odd-man rush for an unassisted goal. The teams traded opportunities, but the next 15 minutes remained scoreless. Ryan Suter broke the scoring drought with a slap shot from left point that beat goaltender Dominik Hasek to the far side and evened the score at 3-3. Jason Arnott notched the go-ahead goal just nine seconds later when he rushed into the offensive zone and beat Hasek with a slapper from the right wing face-off circle. The game-tying and subsequent go-ahead goals marked the fastest a team has gone from trailing to leading a playoff game in NHL history.
The Predators withstood a strong Red Wings offensive push and Martin Erat added an empty-net tally at the 19:39 mark to preserve the victory at 5-3. The comeback marked the Predators’ 12th come-from-behind win of the season – regular season and playoffs combined.
April 15, 2006: Goalie Chris Mason credited with goal as Preds beat Phoenix
Chris Mason stopped 23-of-24 shots and was credited with the first-ever goal by a Nashville Predators goaltender as the Predators defeated the visiting Phoenix Coyotes by a 5-1 score to continue what would be a six-game winning streak to close out the 2005-06 regular season.
Mason, who was the last Nashville player to touch the puck before Phoenix inadvertently passed it into their vacated net on a delayed penalty call, won his fifth straight game and became only the ninth NHL goaltender to be credited with a goal. The Red Deer, Alberta native’s play while stepping into the starter’s role with Tomas Vokoun going down to injury even garnered the praises of a hockey legend.
"I guess you could call that the 'Grant Fuhr Hat Trick' – stop a breakaway, win a game, and score a goal," Phoenix Head Coach and Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky said. "Mason's stepped in, and he's done a nice job for them. It's always good to see a guy step in and get a chance and take advantage of it."
Remarkably, the goal wasn't the first of Mason's professional career.
"Actually I got almost exactly the same thing in Milwaukee almost four years ago," Mason said. "A puck went off my blocker and a guy came around net and ultimately put it into his own goal. It's a cheesy goal. I'd rather one of the other guys get credit for it, but whatever."
April 16, 2008 – Preds even up their series against Detroit thanks to a trio of goals from the back line
The Predators came out of the gate strong in Game Four of the 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals. After netminder Dan Ellis set the tone by robbing Henrik Zetterberg on a pair of scoring chances in the first 40 seconds of the contest, the Preds tallied twice in a 32-second span – Dan Hamhuis snuck in for a back-door goal at 5:18 of the first, then fellow defenseman Shea Weber extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:50 with a blast from point that beat Dominik Hasek low and stick side. The goal marked the third game in row where the Predators scored two goals in 32 seconds or less.
Pavel Datsyuk cut into the lead with a power-play goal 6:24 into the second period. However, Nashville quickly regained the two-goal advantage just 11 seconds later. A third Preds defenseman, Greg de Vries, fired the puck past Hasek from left point thanks to a staggered screen in front of the net set by Jason Arnott and Alexander Radulov. The goal not only chased Hasek from the game, but would also prove to be the game winner.
With the victory, Nashville knotted the series Detroit at two games apiece, the greatest scare the Wings would receive on the road to their 11th Stanley Cup title.
April 16, 2010 – Preds win their first road playoff game at Chicago
Led by two goals by J-P Dumont, the Predators scored four straight third-period goals to claim a 4-1 victory over Chicago in Game One of the teams’ Western Conference Quarterfinal Series. It was the first road playoff win in franchise history.
"We were a little rusty but that lucky goal in the third period got us going and built our confidence," said Head Coach Barry Trotz." We know we have to win on the road in order to be successful in this series. We had a solid third period and found a way to win."
Dumont, a former Blackhawk, flopped a backhander at the net from beyond the right circle, catching rookie goaltender Antti Niemi by surprise. The puck bounced once, skipped past him and clipped the far post and careened into the net to tie the game 1-1 at 1:31 into the third. Dumont tallied his second goal of the evening nine at 10:37 in the final frame when he shoveled in a rebound off of a blocked David Legwand shot. His performance earned him the First Star of the game.
Jerred Smithson and Martin Erat added empty-net goals in the final minute and capped a third period that saw the Predators outshoot Chicago, who outshot the Predators 22-13 through the first 40 minutes. Nashville would go on to give the eventual Cup Champions their stiffest challenge of 2010 playoffs, at one point leading the series 2-1 and having them on the ropes in Game Five before falling in overtime.
April 18, 2006: Kariya nets hat trick as Preds close out regular season with a win vs. Detroit
After trailing 1-0, the Nashville Predators scored six straight goals – including a hat trick by Paul Kariya – to run away with a 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. The victory ended the Preds 2005-06 regular season schedule on a six-game winning streak and with their best record to date at 49-25-8.
Kariya added an assist to create a four-point game and bring his season point total to 85 in 82 games – a Predators franchise record. Kariya, along with linemates Martin Erat and David Legwand accounted for five goals and 10 points on the night to lead Nashville to a season-series split with Detroit, its best finish against the Wings.
"We were skating really well," Kariya said of his line. "Legwand was flying out there and really created a lot of room for Marty and I. When you get those types of opportunities, it's fun to play hockey like that."
Chris Mason, who backstopped all six victories to close out the year, was once again stellar in net for the Preds, stopping 30 shots to give him a .955 save percentage and a miniscule 1.16 goals-against average in that span.
It was a really important game for us to keep our momentum going into the playoffs," Mason said. "Especially against Detroit, who we have a good rivalry with – they had won 12 straight road games which is an NHL record. That says a lot for our guys.”