Saturday, April 23, 2011

Predators Finally Win a "Biggest Game in Franchise History"

It was an exciting afternoon on April 2nd, 2011 in the city of Nashville. Playoff tickets had gone on sale that morning and the Predators were set to take on their hated rivals, the Detroit Red Wings in the biggest game in franchise history. A win would give Nashville a great chance at winning their first ever central division title. The Predators took a 3-0 lead but subsequently collapsed to lose 4-3 in overtime.

April 20th, 2011. Bridgestone Arena was buzzing, hoping to see their team take a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history. This was the biggest game in franchise history. Nashville did not start out well but got the crowd believing again as Matt Halischuk banged home a goal to tie the game at three. However, the Ducks dominated the third period characterized by defensive breakdowns, uncharacteristic play from Pekka Rinne, and a sheer lack of offense from the Predators. A 6-3 loss deflated the spirits of fans both inside and outside Bridgestone Arena, and flashbacks of past first round failures were deep in the collective mind of Pred Nation. All seemed to be loss.

But the phrase "Biggest Game in Franchise History" was not retired for the season.

Late Friday night the puck dropped in Anaheim. The Predators were granted yet another chance to win the biggest game in franchise history. Jordin Tootoo kicked off his career game with an exceptional move on the two on one rush to feed Kevin Klein for the opening score of the game. 1-0 Preds. No one really thought that would be the game-winning goal and Jason Blake proved everyone right in the second period by banging the puck just past Rinne to tie the score at one. The third period did not start well to put things mildly. Bobby Ryan made a great defensive play and scored on the backhand past Rinne after a couple of posterizing dekes through and behind the stickless David Legwand. Nashville Predator fans did not have to look back past Wednesday night to feel the need to worry. The Predators responded well this time, though with their hard work paying off in the form of a Joel Ward goal. The Predators took one more blow in the stomach as Jason Blake once again found the back of the net, this time off of a spectacular pass from Selanne in the corner. The word resiliency has never ringed so true. With Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne on the bench and the extra-attacker on the ice, Mike Fisher won back the offensive zone faceoff to Cody Franson who slid the puck over to captain Shea Weber who sent a snapshot straight for the twine, tying the game at three. It did not take long for the Nashville to put the exclamation point on the comeback as Jordin Tootoo capped his exceptional game with a spectacular feed to Jarred Smithson who put the puck past Ray Emery and put the Predators up 3-2 in the series.

Pred Nation has never had more of a reason to believe. If the Predators can win a contest such as game five, then they have an even better chance to win game six in front of their home crowd late Sunday afternoon. While the nonbelievers continue to pile on, there has never been so much support for this team both from a local and national standpoint. The Predators have never before been in a position to clinch a playoff series, but they are certainly used to being in "The Biggest Game in Franchise History."

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