As the Nashville Predators continue to celebrate their 15th Anniversary, let’s take a look back at some historical moments in Preds history that occurred in late March / early April
March 30, 2012 – The franchise’s 500th victory
Nashville recorded the 500th regular-season victory in club history with a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on March 30, 2012. The Predators hit the milestone in 1,062 games, the fewest in the post-1990 expansion era. With the win, David Poile became the first general manager to guide two separate clubs to 500 wins (Washington), while Barry Trotz became just the fifth bench boss to post 500 wins with a single team.
"It feels good for our franchise," Trotz said. "Sort of like we've arrived.”
The first period was a defensive bout, as the teams combined for only 16 shots on goal. The Red Wings came out firing in the second period, outshooting the Predators 17-9, but Pekka Rinne was up to the task, turning them all away. Gabriel Bourque finally broke through at the 13:05 mark in the second period to put the Predators ahead, 1-0. Francis Bouillon snuck the puck out of a rugby-style scrum in front of the net and caught Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard off guard to put the Predators up 2-0 at the 19:27 mark of the third, and Nashville added a dagger just 2:40 into the third to take a commanding three-goal lead.
Jiri Hudler spoiled Rinne’s shutout bid with 3:03 remaining when he flicked a shot into the open net off of Henrik Zetterberg’s cross-crease pass, but Shea Weber added an empty-net goal in the final minutes to punctuate the Predators’ 500th franchise victory.
The win was a gigantic leap toward securing the No. 4 seed in the 2012 playoffs where they would face, and defeat, the same Red Wings squad.
April 1 and 3, 2008 – Two improbable comebacks vs. St. Louis nets Nashville a playoff berth
In a do-or-die game at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Nashville fell behind 3-0 in the first seven minutes, and it appeared it would not be making its fourth consecutive trip to the postseason. Following the third goal, Chris Mason took over in net and helped the defense tighten up, allowing the Blues only 10 shots over the last 55 minutes of play. The Predators created a few chances late in the first period, but were unable to capitalize. Brandon Bochenski broke the scoring drought 6:06 into the second period when he snapped a quick shot from the high center slot to bring the Predators within two. Jordin Tootoo and Vernon Fiddler added third-period goals to send the game to overtime. At 1:43 of the extra frame, Rich Peverley buried a Jan Hlavac feed to complete the improbable, heart-stopping, come-from-behind win to move the Predators into eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race.
Forty-eight hours later back in Nashville, the Preds came face-to-face with the Blues again. The home team would open the scoring at the 12:00 mark of the first period with a shorthanded goal from Hlavac. The Blues would claim the lead at 2-1 with two second period goals within four minutes of each other. However, J-P Dumont knotted the score at 2-2 late in the second period when he snapped the puck home to notch his team-leading 29th goal of the year. Four minutes into the third period the Predators worked the puck deep into the offensive zone and Hlavac found Dumont behind the St. Louis net. Dumont was hooked down as he attempted to spin in front of the net, but from his knees managed to sling the puck toward the right wing face-off dot. Greg de Vries corralled the bouncing puck and netted the go-ahead, game-winning goal to clinch the team’s fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Aside from clinching a playoff spot, the April 3 game became known for the first of what would be many of the famous "TV timeout standing ovations" that Bridgestone Arena has become known for. Clinging to a 3-2 lead with 4:30 left in the game, the sell-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena gave the team a standing ovation throughout the entirety of the final TV timeout in an effort to will the team to victory. The team not only held on to the lead and clinched a playoff berth, but also instilled the tradition that is uniquely Nashville.
April 5, 2012 – Preds set season sellout record in 2011-12 regular season finale
The 2011-12 season was one of the most successful in franchise history to date – the team advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive spring after finishing with the NHL’s fifth-most wins. And while the Predators were picking up wins on the ice, the fans were coming out in unprecedented fashion to support their hometown team.
“I think fan support and team success parallel each other,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “Home-ice advantage is tremendous for us in this building; we’ve got a loud and boisterous crowd.”
Capped with a capacity crowd in a 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars on April 5, 2012, the Nashville Predators sold out Bridgestone Arena for the final eight regular-season games of 2011-12, completing a franchise-record 25-sellout season. That crowd support went a long ways toward creating a home-ice advantage that helped the Predators post a 26-10-5 record in the Music City, making them the only team to post at least 23 home wins in each season from 2003-04 to 2011-12.
While the overall theme of the night was reflecting on the Predators success over the course of 41 home games, the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne was crucial on the evening. He was tremendous, stopping all 31 shots he faced against a desperate Stars team to help secure the Predators the No. 4 seed heading into the 2012 playoffs.