CHICAGO (AP) _ Steve Sullivan made the most of his return to Chicago, and
the Nashville Predators are one win away from their first postseason berth.
Sullivan, traded on Feb. 16 to Nashville after four seasons with the
Blackhawks, scored a power-play goal and assisted on another as the Predators
downed the Blackhawks 3-1 Thursday night.
``That's what they came and got me for, to score goals,'' Sullivan said.
Jeremy Stevenson had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves as
Nashville took both games of the home-and-home series and moved into a
three-way tie for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The victory gave the Predators 89 points, the most in their six NHL seasons.
Nashville is tied with idle Edmonton and St. Louis, a 3-2 loser to Detroit. The
Predators and Blues have two games remaining, including a head-to-had match in
Nashville on Saturday afternoon. The Oilers have one game left, but lose the
tiebreaker to Nashville.
``It would be great to get back to the playoffs,'' Sullivan said. ``I'm
looking forward to it.''
Adam Hall had the other Nashville goal and Scott Walker added two assists.
After the game, the Predators were already thinking about the Blues.
``It was a huge game for us,'' Vokoun said. ``We've got be focused on
Saturday afternoon. It will be a huge game again.
``That's when you find out how good you can be.''
Stevenson is excited about the prospect.
``The next game is going to be unbelievably good,'' Stevenson said. ``It's
going to be a playoff game.''
Tuomo Ruutu scored for last-place Chicago, which got 26 saves from Jocelyn
Thibault but remained winless (0-4-2-1) in seven games.
Sullivan opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 11:34 of the first
period. With the puck in the corner, Sullivan skated around Steve Poapst and
drove to the net, slipping the puck under Thibault.
``I think Joce has the edge against me,'' Sullivan said. ``Joce is an
all-star goaltender. He had me guessing on the breakaways.''
Thibault faulted himself.
``The first goal, I usually don't give up that kind of goal,'' he said. ``It
was a tricky play by Sully. I should have had that save.''
Hall made it 2-0 just 28 seconds later. Following a faceoff in the neutral
zone, Hall beat Jason Strudwick to the puck and skated in unopposed, lifting
the puck over Thibault's left shoulder.
Ruutu beat Vokoun low to cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the second
period. After intercepting a clearing pass, Eric Daze passed to Ruutu in the
slot for the quick shot.
Stevenson added a power-play goal with 3:37 remaining. Sullivan led the rush
along the far boards and centered to Stevenson, who fired a shot between
Thibault and the left post.
Thibault was making his first home start since Oct. 19. He had lost two road
games after missing 60 following hip surgery Nov. 15.
``I'm pretty satisfied with the way I played,'' he said. ``I made a couple
of mistakes, but mostly I did the right things.''