Stadium Series recap

By: Harrison DuPree
Every year, the NHL picks a city to host its Stadium Series. An outdoor game
hosted in a franchise’s city usually in an NFL or MLB stadium. A little less than a
year ago in June 2021, the NHL announced Nashville as the host city with a battle
between the Nashville Predators and defending Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa
Bay Lightning. This was the Lightning’s first ever appearance outdoors and the
Predators second, the first being in Dallas for the 2020 Winter Classic. Ever since,
both teams have been gearing up by announcing events such as Pekka Rinne’s
jersey retirement and the unveiling of alternate jerseys. This past weekend it
finally unfolded; Nashville hosted its first outdoor hockey game in Nissan

The day began with a plethora of pre-game festivities. Broadway bars were filled
to the brim and multiple band stages were spread out across the city. Then, it
was time; the teams embarked on a bus parade across the river to the venue.
The stadium was decorated with a Broadway theme, three stages, and
completed with the ice rink itself. The lights shined down, over 60,000 drunk
hockey fans began packing in, and the temperature was cold as ever. That’s
when the players were introduced. The national anthem was sung, and everyone
was ready for some good ole’ outdoor hockey.

The first period had begun, and the atmosphere was electric. Preds fans
deafened the stadium with their obnoxious chants that they brought with them
from across the river. The first ten minutes of the game was tenacious, both
teams played fantastic defense making it hard to even get a shot off. A top-5
goalie battle of the year was taking place as well, with Nashville’s up and coming
Juuse Saros and former Conn-Smythe and Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy both
holding their own in net. Then finally, at 8:20 on the power play, rookie Tanner
Jeannot netted one for the preds with 18 seconds left on the penalty. Jeannot,
who is having a statement rookie year, netted his 18th of the season and put his
name in the Calder conversation once again. The home crowd was ecstatic, and
the celebration was finished with a live rendition of the goal song, “I Like It, I Love
It” accompanied by pyrotechnics. That wasn’t the end of the fun in the first
period though. A few minutes later, Nashville’s Michael McCarron and Tampa’s
Patrick “Big Rig” Maroon dropped the gloves in the first of two fights on the
night, but we will get to the other one a bit later. A few good swings and a trip to
the sin bin later, everyone was appeased because there’s nothing better than a
scrap. The first period ended with the Preds on top 1-0, and was followed by
country music performances by Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert during the first intermission. In fact, every intermission or stoppage had some sort of
country music performer.

The second period resumed the action with a bang, but this time on the other
side. The Lightning struck on the power-play with only 58 seconds in with a
Brayden Point wrist shot. The Preds from then on played mostly defense, with
their offense being lackluster. Suddenly, another fight broke out, this one more
unexpected. Tampa’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Nashville’s Ryan Johansen
began their tilt right off the draw with Johansen giving a right hook to
Bellemare, ending the scruff. All was good until a few minutes later, Tampa had
another lethal power-play. This time, superstar Nikita Kucherov tallied a wrister
giving Tampa the 2-1 lead at the end of the second. The Lightning having a much
more successful period while the Preds had a disappointing second with little
offense and too many penalties.

The final period came around with the home side hoping for a fresh start. Alas,
that did not happen. After a back-and-forth defensive battle, the Bolts scored
their third goal in a row. Captain Steven Stamkos notched a cheeky goal from his
usual spot with the only even strength goal of the night and a now 2 goal lead ofr
the Bolts. The Preds seemed defeated and exhausted to this point against the
majorly talented defending champs, but all was not lost. The Preds finally caught
a break with another powerplay goal, 7 minutes left in the game. This time it was
Filip Forsberg, Nashville’s leading scorer. An enticing final five minutes ensued
with major support from the home crowd. The goalie was pulled, and a sixth
man was on. Shot after shot, Vasilevskiy held on and the Preds couldn’t buy the
goal to tie it as the final buzzer sounded.

The Lightning were victorious in a close 3-2 win in their first ever outdoor
appearance. Their lethal offense of superstars like Steven Stamkos and Nikita
Kucherov who both had multiple points proved too much for the Preds. The
Preds, on the other hand, were now 0-2 in outdoor games and had a
heartbreaking loss in front of a home crowd. There was disappointment for a few
minutes on the home side, and a few cheers from the handful of away fans. But
after the sadness subsided, fans were happy to have experienced such a unique
game and the first outdoor NHL game in Tennessee history. Regardless win or
lose, the Stadium Series was a success for both teams and proved to the NHL
once again that Nashville is indeed a “hockey city”.

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