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Predators rekindle offense in 5-1 win

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators, who had scored just 12 times in their last six games, exploded for five goals Sunday night and goaltender Chris Mason turned away 36 of 37 Chicago Blackhawks shots to backstop the Predators to a 5-1 win at the United Center. Yanic Perreault led Nashville with two goals and Steve Sullivan converted on the Predators' first successful penalty shot of the season in the victory, which improves Nashville to 26-12-3 on the season.

The Predators entered the game on the heels of a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings Friday night, while the Blackhawks had dropped their previous nine in a row.

"It was a good rebound game," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. "Obviously, sometimes when you have a team that is very desperate, you don't know how they are going to come out. I thought we did a good job of really not giving them anything to get excited about early and then we scored a couple goals."

The Predators stormed out to a five-goal lead before Mark Bell put Chicago on the board at 7:36 of the third period. Though Nashville officially went zero for four on the power play Sunday, the team netted two of its goals as penalized Blackhawks players were returning to the ice. The first opened the scoring 9:01 into the game, as strong pressure from Nashville's energy line of Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo and Darcy Hordichuk led to Smithson's fourth tally of the season. Trotz sent that trio onto the ice at the tail-end of the man advantage.

"Both our power play [units], they had worked hard and worked down low. They came off and there was about 30 seconds to go [in the penalty] and I felt that [the Smithson line had given] us some really good shifts. I felt that they could really work the penalty killers hard. They were crashing the net like they were, and they were able to get a goal there so that was a real bonus."

Adam Hall made it 2-0 at 18:20 after Scott Hartnell picked off a pass from Jaroslav Spacek and delivered the puck to Hall who was charging the Chicago net. Perreault pocketed his 14th of the season at 11:44 of the middle period--one second after a penalty to Blackhawks defenseman Jim Vandermeer expired--and added his 15th during four-on-four play 2:46 into the third. Sullivan, who drew a penalty shot while breaking in on a short-handed scoring chance, capped Nashville's offensive outburst by beating Chicago goaltender Craig Anderson with a backhander to the top of the net. It was Sullivan's fourth attempt at a penalty shot this season, and his first time to come away with a goal.

"He's had a few and I think this time he wasn't dead tired and he knew what he was going to do," Trotz said. "We just said on the bench that this is a chance to bury it. If you bury that, you sort of bury them, and he did."

The Blackhawks outshot the Predators 30 to 14 over the final 40 minutes, and followed up their third-period goal with quality chances from Tyler Arnason and Bell as time wound down.

"I thought we got away from staying on task a little bit and working as hard as we could at the end when we got a four-goal lead," Trotz said. "We left Chris [Mason] to fend for himself a little bit in the third, but that's probably a little bit of human nature. We've just got to learn from that."

Perreault, meanwhile, continued the consistent play that has produced 14 points in his last 14 games. "He's been really solid in terms of his overall play and putting up points," Trotz said. "He's a smart player and he's got a deceptive shot. Yanic has been a real good find for us, coming in on a trial and now he sits at 15 goals. That's pretty darn good for a guy that came in on a trial."

Predators forward Scott Walker returned to Nashville's lineup after missing 33 games as a result of a sports hernia injury, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky returned to action after sitting out Friday's game against the Detroit with a hand injury.

"There's a lot of growth yet but that's to be expected," Trotz said of Walker's game, which included 11:24 of ice time. "He's had a pretty substantial injury and he's coming back from that. He's worked hard to get himself in shape. Now he's got to get himself into the game shape. That's not necessarily the legs or anything like that. It's the hands and the mind working with the legs and doing things very quickly. For a first game, he was fine."

Nashville will return home for a 7 p.m. match-up against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. Tickets starting at $10 are still available for the game and can be ordered by calling (615) 770-PUCK, purchasing online, or visiting the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster location.

Notes: With the win over Chicago, Nashville improved its record against Central Division opponents to 10-1-1... The Predators have scored at least five goals against the Blackhawks in each of their four meetings this season... Jordin Tootoo and Dan Hamhuis assisted on Jerred Smithson's goal--his fourth of the season. Tootoo logged a season-high 11:32 of ice time and Hamhuis was a game-high +3 and registered three hits... Adam Hall's goal was his ninth of the season, but just his second that was not scored on the power play... With his assist on Hall's goal, Scott Hartnell has two assists in his last three games... Yanic Perreault's two goals Sunday marked his sixth multi-point game of the season and bring his goal total to 15 in 41 games. He needs only one tally to match his 2003-04 output of 16 goals in 69 games with the Montreal Canadiens... Martin Erat, who assisted on Perreault's first goal Sunday, now has five helpers in his last seven games... Marek Zidlicky, who also assisted on Perreault's first goal, now has assists in each of the last two games he played... Ryan Suter was credited with the second assist on Perreault's second goal. It was the rookie defenseman's 10th helper this season... Steve Sullivan posted an assist on Perreault's second goal. Combined with his penalty shot goal, it gave him his 11th multi-point game of the season. The penalty shot was scored while Nashville was short-handed, giving him a team-leading three goals scored on the penalty kill. Sullivan's two points tie him for the team lead in scoring with Paul Kariya. Both have 37 points... The Predators had gone scoreless on five penalty shots this season prior to Sullivan's conversion on his fourth attempt... Nashville's penalty killers were perfect for the game Sunday, blanking the Blackhawks on all five power-play opportunities... The Predators are now 16-0-2 when leading after two periods and 14-8-3 when outshot by their opponent... Nashville is 8-0 this season with Scott Walker in the lineup... Scottie Upshall was scratched from Nashville's lineup... Attendance at the United Center was 10,208.

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