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Blue Jackets 3, Blackhawks 2 @NHLdotcom

CHICAGO (AP) - Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev staked Columbus to a big lead and goalie Marc Denis helped them hang on.

The Blue Jackets took a three-goal lead in the first period, then got 41 saves from Denis to make it hold up to earn their third straight victory, 3-2 over Chicago on Friday night.

Nash and Zherdev each had a goal and an assist, and Dan Fritsche also scored for Columbus. Nash, who has played in just 10 games due to ankle and knee injuries, had his first multi-point game this season.

``We got off to a textbook first period, played the way we wanted,'' Denis said. ``Unfortunately for some reason we sat back and it definitely was not the way we wanted to end that game.''

The Blackhawks got goals from Mark Bell and Martin Lapointe but lost their sixth straight game and eighth in nine.

``Chicago battled real hard to come back,'' Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. ``They played hard and forechecked hard, but got behind early.''

Defensive breakdowns in the first period doomed the Blackhawks.

``Guys like Nash and Zherdev are goal scorers and they're going to take advantage of it,'' Gallant said.

The Blue Jackets pointed to Denis' effort as a key to their win. He has stopped 123 of 128 shots in Columbus' last three games.

``In the last three games he's been standing on his head for us and he's been a huge part of these three wins,'' Fritsche said. ``All the credit goes to him.''

Blackhawks goalie Craig Anderson, starting in place of injured Nikolai Khabibulin, made 18 saves.

``We're real fragile now,'' Chicago captain Adrian Aucoin said. ``We're working hard. We've just got to get our confidence up.''

The Blue Jackets took advantage of Blackhawks' breakdowns to jump to a 3-0 lead in the first period.

Fritsche opened the scoring at 2:59 when he slipped free from defenseman Jaroslav Spacek and redirected Geoff Platt's centering pass past Anderson's glove side.

Zherdev made it 2-0 at 8:44 to after taking a pass from Nash and finishing a 2-on-1 break. Zherdev also beat Anderson high on the glove side.

Nash connected from the edge of the crease with 6:58 left in the first to extend the Blue Jackets' lead to 3-0. Following a faceoff in the Chicago zone, Blackhawks defenseman Jim Vandermeer lost the puck to Zherdev, who then fed Nash at the net.

During a two-minute, 5-on-3 power play late in the first, the Blackhawks managed only one shot.

Chicago outshot Columbus 19-4 in the second, but only cut the lead to 3-1, on Bell's power-play goal at 3:23. Bell fired in a high shot from the left circle after taking a pass from Tyler Arnason out of the corner.

Lapointe trimmed it to 3-2 at 9:18 of the third. His shot from the right circle deflected off Columbus defenseman Radoslav Suchy and popped over Denis' shoulder.

Bell knocked the puck in the Columbus net from a pile with 2:45 left, but referee Shane Heyer had blown the whistle before the puck crossed the goal line. A few moments later, Denis was shoved into the net with the puck underneath him, but that also was disallowed by Heyer.

``The first one he (Heyer) said he lost sight of the puck, so he blew it,'' Aucoin said. ``Our guys work hard and finally get some offense going and something like that happens. It's really frustrating.''

Notes: Earlier on Friday, Blackhawks acquired RW Radim Vrbata from the Carolina Hurricanes for future consideration. Vrbata, 24, had two goals and three assists in 16 games. ... Chicago D Jassen Cullimore returned after missing nine games with a groin pull ... Khabibulin is day to day with a pulled groin. Adam Munro, recalled from Norfolk of the AHL on Thursday, backed up Anderson. ... Columbus D Adam Foote missed the game with a hip injury, sustained Wednesday versus Anaheim. Blue Jackets F Jan Hrdina sat out with a bruised chest, also received against the Mighty Ducks. ... Columbus D Duvie Westcott had an upper body injury in the second period and didn't return. Gallant said the injury didn't appear to be serious, but Westcott was spitting up blood and taken to the hospital for examination.

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