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Blackhawks 4, Predators 3 @NHLdotcom

CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Blackhawks used simple fundamentals to beat the Nashville Predators.

Rene Bourque had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks scored four times in the first period of a 4-3 victory Wednesday night. The Predators lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Mark Bell also scored for the Blackhawks, who won for just the third time in 10 games.

Nashville's top goalie, Tomas Vokoun, is out with a sore back so the Blackhawks decided to test Wednesday's starter Chris Mason.

"With their goaltending right now, we just wanted to get pucks at the net and that's what we did," Bourque said. "On Beller's goal and my goal we really didn't have much to shoot at, but it found its way in."

That's exactly what Chicago coach Trent Yawney hoped would happen.

"It's all about getting the pucks to the net," Yawney said. "Speaking from experience as a defenseman, those shots out of the corner, if they hit the net and you're not paying attention, you can easily be pulling them out of the back of your net."

Mason allowed three goals on 26 shots. He was pulled late in the first after giving up three goals on 10 shots, but returned to start the second.

Pekka Rinne relieved for the final 3:08 of the first and permitted a goal on two shots.

Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves, as the Blackhawks played a one-goal game for the 10th time in 11.

"They scored two quick goals," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I was trying to change it and save a timeout because I knew we were in trouble.

"I put Pekka Rinne in and he let in a quick goal. I figured, 'Mase, go back in and start this thing over again.' Everybody involved in the first period was involved, so it was a do-over."

Greg Johnson had a goal and an assist. Dan Hamhuis and Mark Eaton also scored for injury-depleted Nashville, but the Predators couldn't overcome the 4-1 lead Chicago built after 20 minutes.

"Our first period today was atrocious, probably the worst period all year," Eaton said. "It's the NHL. Any team you spot three goals, it's going to be a tough time coming back. We just need to get off to some better starts and get some momentum coming our way."

Keith opened the scoring at 8:37 when he pinched in from the point, took a pass from Matthew Barnaby and scored from the edge of the crease.

Johnson tied it, converting a breakaway one second after a Nashville penalty expired.

Sharp, Bell and Bourque then scored in span of 3:57. Bourque beat Rinne between the legs with a backhand shot with 57 seconds left in the period.

Hamhuis cut it to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 3:25 of the second when his shot bounced in off Khabibulin's pad.

Eaton trimmed it to 4-3 just 25 seconds into the third. He skated in from the blue line, took Johnson's pass from behind the net and scored from the slot.

The Blackhawks, who have blown leads late in games all season, managed to hold on.

The Predators remained in fourth place in the Western Conference, but are concerned about stumbling into the playoffs.

"Regardless of who you're playing, you bring your (best) efforts," Mason said. "Playoffs are six games away now. We can't afford to be coasting."

Notes: Nashville D Brendan Witt served a one-game suspension for kneeing Columbus' David Vyborny on Monday. ... Nashville RW Steve Sullivan (sore groin), RW Jordin Tootoo (sore back) and D Marek Zidlicky (sore shoulder) all sat out and are day-to-day. ... The Blackhawks have won two straight against Nashville after dropping their first five games against the Predators. ... Bourque has three goals and two assists in his last two games. Sharp has a five-game point streak with three goals and three assists. ... The Blackhawks, who will miss the postseason for the seventh time in eight seasons, plan to send at least six players to Norfolk for the AHL playoffs.

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