This Week in Preds History: March 16-22
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 mid-March.
March 16, 2004: Adam Hall scores with 22 seconds left to earn tie in Vancouver
With every point being precious in their drive to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, forward Adam Hall scored with 22 seconds left in regulation while goaltender Tomas Vokoun was pulled for an extra attacker, to salvage a point and a 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place.
The point gave Nashville 80 with nine games left in the regular season, equaling a franchise record and moving them into a seventh-place tie with St. Louis for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, one point ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles.
"Maybe this one tie is going to be the point that puts us over the edge and into the playoffs," Hall said. "Hindsight is 20-20, you sit down after the season and say `If we just had a tie here or a win here it would have been the difference.' You really never can tell until the very end."
The tie was part of seven road games in the final 10 contests of the 2003-04 season, and sparked a 5-3-2 run to end the 82-game schedule, enough to edge out ninth-place Edmonton for the eighth and final playoff berth.
March 17, 2011 – St. Patrick’s Day thriller kick-starts march to the playoffs
Shea Weber scored at 3:37 of overtime as Nashville came from behind to defeat Boston, 4-3, in a St. Patrick’s Day thriller. The goal came on the power play after the Bruins’ Steven Kampfer was penalized for holding Mike Fisher 2:59 into overtime. The play started when Weber hit David Legwand at the top of the left circle who then slid a cross-ice pass to Ryan Suter at the top of the right circle. Suter hit Weber at the top of the offensive zone and the captain fired one of his signature slap shots over the glove of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The overtime victory started a 9-2-1 stretch over the team's final 12 regular season games to finish fifth in the Western Conference. The victory was the Predators’ first overtime win of the year and could not have come at a more opportune time. The crucial two points kept Nashville in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
"Overtime has not been kind to the Nashville Predators, so that was huge for us," Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said. "It was a huge two points. You talk about a character win."
Weber’s game-winning goal was the 80th tally of his career, which made him the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer among defensemen.
March 18, 2006: Preds beat Calgary 9-4 at Bridgestone Arena
With this crucial, late-season intra-conference matchup tied 4-4 midway through the game, the Nashville Predators poured it on, scoring five unanswered goals to tie a franchise record with a 9-4 victory. The only other time a Nashville team had scored nine goals in a single outing was March 4, 2004 at Pittsburgh.
"We've talked about expecting the unexpected a little bit," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We've always had a 2-1, 3-2 sort of game with Calgary. Obviously that's not really what happened tonight. It was sort of whoever would get the last power play would win the game, it seemed like."
Mike Sillinger led the offensive assault, tallying four assists – two of which came on the power play – which finished the evening three-for-nine. Three other Preds notched three-point games, led by Paul Kariya’s two goals and an assist.
It was a typical wild affair between the two squads, featuring countless scrums and a pair of bouts. The turning point ultimately came due to bad blood, when Calgary’s Chris Simon was sent off for five minutes with an intent to injure penalty after cross-checking Darcy Hordichuk in the face at 14:12 of the second. The Predators tallied a pair of power-play goals with Simon in the box, starting the rally.
"He recognized that Simon wanted to get something involved with him," Trotz said of Hordichuk. "Obviously Simon did it and he got called on it. That was a real big turning point. After that, I thought we stayed to the game plan and we accomplished what we wanted to do."
The nine-goal outburst gave the Predators a clean sweep in four games against Calgary during the 2005-06 season, and was eighth of a 10-game stretch where the Preds went 8-0-2 en route to their best finish in franchise history.
March 20, 2011 – Geoffrion’s improbable hat trick
Less than one month after becoming the first Tennessee native, and first fourth-generation NHLer to appear in the League, Brentwood native Blake Geoffrion became the youngest player in franchise history to notch a hat trick in his 11th career game at Buffalo. Geoffrion scored all three of Nashville’s regulation goals as the Predators moved into a fifth-place tie in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Geoffrion’s first goal came at 6:44 in the first period. He began the play with a successful poke check at the top of the defensive zone that kicked the puck to J-P Dumont who rushed the puck back toward the offensive zone. Dumont hit Colin Wilson at the top of the offensive zone. Wilson hit a wide-open Geoffrion, streaking down the left side, who threw the puck toward the net. The puck deflected off goaltender Ryan Miller’s back and into the net Nashville’s first goal.
After three consecutive Sabres goals, Geoffrion netted his second and third goals to tie the game late in the third period. He cut the Sabres’ lead to 3-2 with 2:27 left in regulation when he capitalized on Andrej Sekera’s turnover at the side of the Buffalo net and jammed the puck inside the right post. Geoffrion tied the game just 62 seconds later, just as the Predators pulled goalie Anders Lindback for an extra attacker. Geoffrion won the faceoff to the right of the Sabres net, and Nashville worked the puck to Cody Franson, who fired a shot from the right point that was deflected by Geoffrion and handcuffed Miller and forced overtime.
Martin Erat capped the comeback with the game-winner at 0:27 of sudden death.
"We stole that one," Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. "It was looking pretty bleak, then all of a sudden we stayed with it."
March 21, 2010 – Rinne’s domination garners League honors
Pekka Rinne was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week after piecing together a handful of dominating performances during a six-game winning streak, turning aside 164-of-171 shots, posting a .959 save percentage and a 1.14 goals-against average. He finished the week off by defeating the St. Louis Blues, 3-2.
"He played another unreal game," newly acquired forward Dustin Boyd said after the St. Louis game. "It could have been a different game if he isn't back there."
Rinne’s performance against the Blues added to his already stellar week in which he tallied a perfect 4-0-0 record. He was impenetrable during a 149:04 shutout streak through the heart of the week and did not allow an even-strength goal for 180:09.
After signing a two-year contract during the Olympic Break, Rinne posted a 12-4-1 record with a 1.96 goal-against average, a .931 save percentage and four shutouts to lead the Predators to the postseason. That included an impressive five one-goal games, including two 1-0 goaltender duals.