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Hossa scores twice in Blackhawks' win vs. Predators

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Marian Hossa had two goals to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-1 win Saturday against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago has won six in a row and nine of its past 10 games and moved ahead of Nashville for the Central Division lead.

"We're excited that we've put ourselves in the spot we were hoping to be after 20 games, but we shouldn't be satisfied," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We should be looking to improve off of these levels, which will make us a good team."

Goalie Scott Darling got the start for the Blackhawks after Antti Raanta faced 41 shots Friday against the Montreal Canadiens. Darling made 32 saves for his third win of the season.

"Darling was so strong in the net," Hossa said. "You just felt the confidence from him being in the net. Same thing with Antti in [Friday's] game. It's another great problem to have. You can put anybody in the net and the team feels confident. It doesn't matter who's in the net."

Brandon Saad gave Chicago a 1-0 lead at 14:53 of the first period. Saad corralled the puck after defenseman Duncan Keith forced a Nashville turnover and beat Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot to the far side.

"He is such a strong and powerful skater who understands the game really well right now, and he is improving every game," Hossa said. "He is going to be a dominating player in this League."

Saad was a force offensively for the Blackhawks again with one goal and one assist after scoring the game-winning goal with 27 seconds remaining against Montreal on Friday.

"When he plays like that, he's at the elite level," Quenneville said. "I think that consistency is what we're looking for, but if you play like that every night it'd be a different animal we'd be talking about. Certainly he has that ability. A lot of nights he's fine, but today he took it to that next level where you'd be talking about the elite players."

Hossa gave Chicago a 2-0 lead at 2:48 of the second period. Saad fought off the Nashville defense and made a great backhand pass that gave Hossa a wide-open net.

"I had some speed there, and I was taking it wide and thinking about going to the net," Saad said. "The goalie kind of froze and I saw lots of space in the back. It was a good spot by [Hossa]."

The goal was Hossa's first in seven games and his fourth of the season. Hossa wasn't concerned about the scoring drought.

"To tell you the truth, I don't think about it anymore," Hossa said. "I just try to play the game, and obviously [Saad] made an unbelievable play and [Jonathan Toews] drove the net. Basically the defender didn't even see me behind his back."

Chicago played a good defensive game through two periods, keeping the majority of Nashville's chances to the outside.

"We gave them a little bit too much respect and played into their game a little bit," Predators forward Colin Wilson said. "They're a fast team, and we were turning the puck over a little too much."

Wilson made it 2-1 at 34 seconds of the third period on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle. Wilson's shot made it through heavy traffic in front of the net and found its way past Darling.

"I think we just changed our mentality and started playing the way that we're capable of," Wilson said. "We always know that our destiny is kind of in our hands. If we play our best game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win the game every night. That's what we did. We went out in the third and started playing the way that we can."

Hossa scored an empty-net goal with 1:11 remaining in regulation to make it 3-1.

The Predators are 11-2-1 at home after winning seven games in a row at Bridgestone Arena and have yet to lose back-to-back games.

"I'm really confident in our team," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "You'd like to go and win them all. That would be a really good season, everybody would sleep well at night, but realistically that doesn't happen."

Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith finished with 26:18 of ice time.

Nashville defenseman Anton Volchenkov missed the game because of a lower-body injury and Victor Bartley took his place alongside Seth Jones. It was Bartley's first game since Nov. 8, and he had his first point of the season with an assist on Wilson's goal.

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