April 24, 2011
It took Barry Trotz, the only coach in Nashville Predators history, exactly 984 regular season games, 34 playoff games and more time spent on the hot seat than a lifeguard.
But in Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks, in front of a delirious home crowd, they combined to do something unprecedented in Predators franchise history: Earning the right to play on into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a 4-2 victory that eliminated the Anaheim Ducks.
Trotz expertly managing the roster; Legwand scoring the empty netter with 9.2 seconds remaining to clinch the victory. No two individuals better exemplify this franchise's battle for respect.
But, in true underdog fashion, the Predators had to feel like they'd been screwed before they could wallow in the ecstasy of playoff success.
In the third period, with the score tied 2-2, Patric Hornqvist(notes) tipped a shot from the point that beat Ray Emery(notes). The crowd popped, the Preds celebrated … and the referee waved it off, claiming it had been hit with a high stick.
The review took five minutes …
… and in the end, despite that tantalizing ice-level replay at the end, they found it inconclusive.
The rest of the third played out as a combination of Ducks' close calls and Predators' blown chances.
With 9:52 left, a 3-on-1 by the Predators saw Legwand stopped by Emery. Just over a minute later, there was a harrowing sequence in which Tootoo had two whacks at the puck with an open net, Emery's stick barely keeping it out; Mike Fisher's(notes) follow-up missed the puck.
Then, with Emery pulled and just 38 seconds left in the game, Saku Koivu(notes) was called for an obvious interference penalty in the neutral zone. The Ducks protested vehemently. Legwand iced the game with just under 10 seconds left into an empty net.
So Nashville advances. Which means they're no longer the de facto first-round bye for higher seeds in the West. Which means their supporters will live and die with their team for a second round of playoff games. And that's how you really begin to expand, and indoctrinate, a fan base.
It only took 13 years, bur the Predators are finally 12 wins away from the Stanley Cup.