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Kane streak at 24; Predators defeat Blackhawks

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Patrick Kane scored for the Chicago Blackhawks to extend his point streak to 24 games, but first-period goals by James Neal, Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg propelled the Nashville Predators to a 5-1 win at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

Neal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 6:54. He retrieved the puck around Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, corralled it in the left circle and beat Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling with a wrist shot.

"I think it was one of our best periods of the year," Neal said. "I think every guy wanted to respond from our game in Chicago [a 4-1 loss Tuesday]. That was a tough one for us so coming back home and having Chicago again was great for our team. I think we did a great job on every line. The first shift was big, and it got us rolling."

Smith gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 15:56 on a scramble in front of the net. Viktor Arvidsson led a 2-on-1 rush and passed to Smith, who got his stick on the puck and was able to slide it past Darling for his sixth goal.

"We were ready, but we were ready to play fast I think," Smith said. "We just wanted to hit holes and just regardless of what happened just to move our feet and play fast. I think that way you can kind of catch their defense. If there's a quick scrum and the puck kind of slips loose, you can catch them. If you turn it over, you've still got speed to get back and go the other way."

Forsberg gave the Predators a 3-0 lead 37 seconds later on a power play. Defenseman Roman Josi lofted the puck toward the front of the net; Forsberg was left alone and beat Darling for his sixth goal.

"Guys were ready to play," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Offensively we were on the go and defensively we were tight. There were a couple of big saves by [goaltender Pekka Rinne] in the first period that probably get hidden a little bit by the way we played, but sometimes those are the hardest saves when there's not a lot of action."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with the way his team came out to start the game.

"It was an ugly start," Quenneville said. "They blitzed us right off the bat, and we didn't have a response to it. Maybe we woke up in the second period, but that was hard to watch, that first 20 minutes. That's as ugly as I've seen us play."

Kane made it 3-1 at 5:43 of the third period. Duncan Keith took a shot, and forward Marcus Kruger was able to knock the rebound loose from Rinne. Kane got the puck and slid it under Rinne for his 18th goal.

"It's nice to see [Kane continue his streak], but I know he's the type of guy that would rather have a win than keep the streak going," Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said.

Nashville challenged Kane's goal for goaltender interference but the ruling on the ice was upheld.

Neal scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-1 at 14:55 of the third. Neal stole the puck from Kane and led a 2-on-1 with forward Calle Jarnkrok. Neal elected to shoot and beat Darling with a wrist shot from the left circle for his 12th goal.

"They're a good hockey team," Laviolette said. "I told the guys afterwards you can't expect to play 60 minutes the way you like against Chicago. You've got to hope to play more good minutes than they do. What I really liked about our club was when they made it 3-1, I really liked our response from that point on."

Eric Nystrom scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-1 at 18:46. Rinne made 35 saves.

"It's a huge win for us, and I'm really happy with the way we stuck with it at the end there," Rinne said. "We had to defend and defended really well at the end there, so big win."

Nashville improved to 9-3-2 at home and hopes to build on the win after struggling to string victories together during the past 12 games.

"Throughout the lows, you've just got to keep going I think," Neal said. "You're going to go through dips throughout the year, but I think we're growing as a team and we're getting older. We know how to battle through those. It shows with our response tonight in our game."

Chicago (15-10-4) hosts the Winnipeg Jets on Friday; Nashville (15-9-4) plays the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

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