CHICAGO (AP) - Now that the Nashville Predators have reached the top of the NHL standings, they're finding ways to stay there.
Vernon Fiddler scored the winner with 2:21 left in the third period, and the Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Friday night. Fiddler beat Nikolai Khabibulin from the edge of the crease after getting open and taking a feed from Alexander Radulov, who was behind the net.
Scott Nichol added an empty-net goal with 42.6 seconds left, and Nashville won its third straight game and ninth out of 10. Rookie defenceman Kevin Klein scored his first NHL goal for the Predators, who lead the league with 73 points and 35 victories.
"We know on the bench we have a chance to win every game in this league," Fiddler said. "It's just a matter of time before something happens.
"We were keeping it simple on the forecheck and I was just fortunate to get it in the net. It handcuffed Khabibulin a little bit and it was a good play by Raddy (Radulov)."
Brent Seabrook scored for the Blackhawks, who lost their 10th straight (0-8-2) overall and eighth consecutive at home (0-6-2). Their last victory was on Jan. 2 at St. Louis and their last win at the United Center was on Dec. 26 over Dallas.
Chicago, which has the NHL's worst power-play, wasted a five-minute advantage early in the third after Nashville's Dan Hamhuis was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. Hamhuis knocked Seabrook head-first into the boards at 4:36 of the period. Seabrook left the game, but returned late in the third.
"When we killed the five-minute penalty, that was a real momentum builder for us," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We started to engage real hard. Then we got the winner and the insurance goal."
Nashville's Tomas Vokoun stopped 30 shots. Khabibulin had 28 saves for Chicago.
"I can feel for Chicago," Vokoun said. "We've been in that position. Sometimes you play a good game and on a goal like that, with two minutes left, you lose the game and all the work seems like for nothing."
Chicago outshot Nashville 13-10 in the scoreless first period, but neither team had sustained pressure or many prime chances.
"I think we were playing pretty good hockey tonight," Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat said. "With two minutes left, we give up a lucky goal. What cost us the game was the five-minute power play we had there."
During the advantage, Chicago had only three shots on Vokoun. Only one, a 15-foot attempt by Patrick Sharp, was a tough chance.
Klein, recalled earlier Friday from Milwaukee of the AHL, opened the scoring at 5:40 of the second with a fluke goal.
After cutting in on right wing, Klein's shot from a sharp angle struck the right leg of Chicago defenceman Jassen Cullimore, who was at the edge of the crease. The puck then deflected in between Khabibulin's legs.
"I was going for a pass to J.P. (Dumont) 100 per cent and it banked in off the defenceman," Klein said.
Seabrook tied the score at 1 with 4:53 left in the second on a low, screened shot from about 45 feet out in the slot. He fired a shot through traffic and beat Vokoun after taking a pass from Martin Havlat, who had circled the net.
Notes: The Predators acquired F Chris Durno from Anaheim for F Shane Endicott on Friday. Durno was assigned to Milwaukee of the AHL. ... Nashville recalled Klein after placing D Marek Zidlicky on injured reserve. ... Chicago C Peter Bondra missed his fourth game with a shoulder injury. He had been expected to return after the all-star break. ... Cullimore returned Friday after missing seven games with a shoulder injury. ... Chicago D Adrian Aucoin consulted with doctors in Toronto on Friday about a groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup for the last six games and 17 games overall this season.