During a first-period timeout Thursday the Nashville Predators played a brief video tribute to Steve Sullivan. In addition to a snippet from his 2009 Masterton Trophy acceptance speech it included several highlights from his seven seasons in Nashville.
Late in the third period the 38-year-old forward delivered a live re-enactment.
He broke around a Predators defenseman, skated toward the goal and lifted a well-placed backhand shot on net.
“I’ve seen that move before,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s good to see him have his speed back. … When he holds that puck out there, you know he’s coming across.
“I thought the tribute was touching. You could tell the city of Nashville and the fans still feel attached to him.”
Thursday’s game between the Predators and Phoenix Coyotes was Sullivan’s first at Bridgestone Arena since he left Nashville as a free agent in 2011. He spent last season with Pittsburgh, which did not come to town, and joined the Coyotes last summer.
The video drew a warm response from the announced sellout crowd and an acknowledgement from Sullivan, who was on the bench at that time.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I appreciate it. I’ve said it before: these are some of the best fans in the league and I feel fortunate I had a chance to play here, and I appreciate the tribute for sure.”
Sullivan is one of four players to score 100 goals for the Predators (captain Shea Weber needs one to join that group). He had exactly 100 as well as 163 assists in 317 career appearances and in 31 goals in 2005-06 is tied for the second-highest single-season total in franchise history.
Likely his most memorable moment at Bridgestone Arena was the first game he played there for the Predators. He scored three goals that night, Feb. 18, 2004, in a 7-3 victory over San Jose. It was the seventh hat trick in team history and the first of four he recorded for Nashville.
He had a prime opportunity to hit the net again early in the first period of this one when he was part of a five-on-one that developed from a defensive breakdown by the Predators. Eventually, he was the one who took the shot on goalie Pekka Rinne.
“I didn’t realize there were so many guys coming up the ice,” Sullivan said. “It was more of a two-on-one, and when the defenseman took my pass away, I just decided to take it to the net and try to shoot. Rinne was there for the save.”
Rinne was there in the third period as well and snatched Sullivan’s backhand shot with his glove and held on with a bit of a flourish.
“He played a good strong game,” Rinne said. “He had some chances. The first shot of the game was that [five]-on-one and then he had that one in the third period. He was being Sully — skating hard. He has good hands and he created some chances.
“But this time I was lucky, I guess.”
None of the Coyotes did any better against Rinne, who stopped all 19 shots he faced in a 3-0 Nashville victory.
Thus Sullivan left as he came, tied for second on his newest team with four goals. If nothing else, he got a refresher on some of the memories he took with him when he left.