As the Nashville Predators step away from play for the 2014 Olympics, let's take a look back at some historical moments in Preds history that occured in mid-February.
February 15, 1999: Gretzky’s only appearance in Nashville
“The Great One” played just a single game in the Music City, but needed just the one to show Nashville what made him the most prolific scorer in hockey history.
In his final NHL season as a member of the New York Rangers, Wayne Gretzky assisted on five of his team’s seven goals to set a record for the most points and helpers by a Preds opponent. While the assist record has been tied and the points record has been broken since then, the sell-out crowd was awestruck by No. 99’s display of skill and anticipatory passing.
The NHL’s all-time leader in points, assists and goals set up Adam Graves at 5:10 to start the scoring, then Todd Harvey to round the first-period scoring out at 14:10. He pitched in two more helpers on goals by Graves and Kevin Stevens in the second, and finished off the contest with his 47th assist of the season on a Mathieu Schneider goal at 16:47 of the third.
Though the home team would fall by a 7-4 margin, the game was about more than simply wins and losses. For on this night, Nashville hockey fans were in the presence of greatness.
February 18, 2004: Steve Sullivan debuts with a hat trick vs. San Jose
Steve Sullivan started his tenure as a Nashville Predator with a bang, recording a hat trick and assisting on another goal to lead his new team to a 7-4 stomping of San Jose at Bridgestone Arena.
``It's the kid in me that just loves scoring goals,'' said Sullivan, acquired from Chicago less than 48 hours before his debut. ``You always hope for nights like these, but they are never easy. They usually come few and far between. I'm just happy the team got the win. That was my main objective.''
New linemate Scott Walker and defenseman Marek Zidlicky assisted on the trio of goals, all of which came on the power play. All three used the outburst as a rallying cry – Walker had 10 points (2g-10a) in three games, Zidlicky pitched in six helpers in three contests, and Sullivan his five-goal, five-assist explosion to earn NHL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“To be relaxed and to stay calm were the big things for me in my first game,'' Sullivan said. ``It was like any other game this season. I just wanted to keep things simple.''
Sullivan finished his Predator career with 100 goals and 263 points in 317 games. He is the only player in franchise history to record more than three hat tricks, and his 2005-06 goal total of 31 is tied for the second highest ever.
February 15 & 24, 2007: Forsberg acquired; scored OT winner vs. Detroit
Predators General Manager David Poile executed the biggest trade in franchise history when he acquired one of the most dominating players of his era from Philadelphia – former Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner Peter Forsberg.
"Peter Forsberg is one of the NHL's most complete players and the ultimate competitor - a consistent winner who has year in and year out been a difference-maker in the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Poile said. "He strengthens our club up the middle and will provide another battle-tested, veteran voice to our dressing room. Adding a player of this caliber also sends a strong message to our fans that the Nashville Predators are prepared to compete at the highest level."
The trade sent shockwaves through the hockey community, and sent a message that the Predators were poised to compete for the Stanley Cup. The Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native tallied 15 points (2g-13a) in 17 regular season contests and pitched in four more points in the postseason.
Possibly his biggest point in a Preds jersey came in a late-February clash with the rival Detroit Red Wings – it was his first goal, and came at the most-clutch of times.
Paul Kariya tallied the game-tying goal with just 1:04 remaining in regulation, sending the fourth of eight meeting between the two teams to overtime. Just 2:11 into the extra session, Kariya found his newest linemate driving to the net, and “Foppa” redirected the game winner past Chris Osgood for a 4-3 Nashville win.
"It was an unbelievable pass by Paul," Forsberg said after the game. "I thought we battled. It was great to score my first goal and get my first points. The team played great and there was a great atmosphere in the building."
Febuary 19, 2013 – Weber goes on a goal-scoring streak
As time moves on, captain Shea Weber is sure to shatter countless franchise records and set many other personal milestones in a Predators sweater. A couple of those achievements occurred in a three-game span a month into the 2012-13 campaign. First, on Feb. 16 when the Predators hosted the Anaheim Ducks, Weber used a wrist shot from the right point – immediately after Nashville had killed off a Ducks two-man advantage – to score his 100th career goal. It made him the fifth player in franchise history, and first defenseman, to reach the century mark.
His 100th goal broke the seal and the floodgates opened. Weber scored two days later at Colorado, then created the first three-game goal-scoring streak of his career in dramatic fashion the following outing against the rival Detroit Red Wings. A back-and-forth affair eventually went to overtime tied at 3-3 when, less than a minute in, Colin Wilson's shot from the left side went wide and bounced off the end boards. Weber came down the right side, collected the rebound and beat a diving Jonas Gustavsson to secure victory.
"Lucky," Weber said of the fortunate bounce which led to the goal. "I was just thankful for whoever installed that kick plate behind the net because that sure kicked out hard. I was just lucky to get a stick on it and find a way to slide it in."
By the time he headed to Sochi to represent Canada in the Olympics for the second consecutive time earlier this month, the Sicamous, B.C., native and two-time Norris Trophy finalist had moved into third on the franchise’s all-time points and goals lists, and fourth on the assists list. Since the beginning of the 2008-09 campaign, no NHL defenseman has more goals that Weber either.