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Preds roll to 8-3 win over Blackhawks

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Paul Kariya
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
Predators leading scorer Paul Kariya used his speed effectively against the Blackhawks Friday and collected four points in the game.

The Nashville Predators rolled to an 8-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night at the United Center. Paul Kariya had a goal and three assists while Jason Arnott and David Legwand collected three points each. Chicago's starting goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, was replaced with Brian Boucher following Nashville's fourth goal.

The win improved Nashville's record to 27-11-3 and earned Predators head coach Barry Trotz the honor of being assistant coach for the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The Game 41 victory also gave Nashville the best first-half record in franchise history.

The Predators scored on the first shift of the game, as Kariya pushed the puck up-ice at the end of a long shift and beat Adrian Aucoin with a stickhandling move to create a 2-on-1. Kariya slipped a pass through defenseman Jassen Cullimore and to Scott Hartnell on the right side. Hartnell's shot back across the net squeezed past Khabibulin to make it 1-0 at the 1:10 mark.

Chicago tied the game at 11:49 of the first, after sloppy play by both teams in the neutral zone allowed winger Brandon Bochenski to walk into Nashville's zone. His shot from the high slot hit Predators goaltender Chris Mason but still got by him to even the score.

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Three minutes later, Kariya gave Nashville a lead it would never relinquish. A shot by Chicago's Duncan Keith came off the end boards and Legwand chipped it out to the blueline. That's where Kariya made a great play to chop down on Keith's stick and allow the puck to slip by the defenseman into the neutral zone. Kariya tracked the puck down to create another 2-on-1. He entered the zone on the right wing and cut to the middle at the top of the right circle. Kariya faked a shot and took a stride to the left before ripping a high shot over the glove of Khabibulin to make it 2-1 at 14:53.

Mason stopped Chicago's Michael Holmqvist on a 2-on-1 with about two minutes left in the first period and the save proved key as Arnott scored at 19:13 to extend Nashville's lead to 3-1. Great defensive positioning by the line of Arnott, Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont resulted in a takeaway on the Blackhawks' attempted breakout. Arnott got his stick on a clearing pass and Shea Weber won a race to the loose puck to keep it in the Chicago zone. Weber passed to Sullivan in the right circle and Sullivan centered to Dumont, who was entering the zone. Dumont moved around former Predator Denis Arkhipov and got a shot off. Khabibulin made the save with his right leg pad but inadvertently sent the puck right to Arnott at the right side of the goal. Arnott had lots of net to shoot at and didn't miss on the rebound chance.

The Predators' momentum carried over into the second, as Sullivan made it 4-1 at 1:13. Timonen sent Sullivan in on a partial breakaway from the left side and Sullivan's shot caromed off Khabibulin's shoulder and into the right corner. Dumont kept the puck alive and cycled the puck with Sullivan before centering for Arnott in the slot. Arnott was unable to handle the pass and a bump by a Chicago defender jarred the puck loose into the slot. Sullivan swooped in and found himself alone in front of Khabibulin. He ripped a shot that beat the goalie to the left side. That was it for Khabibulin, as Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard replaced him with Boucher.

Greg Zanon and Chris Mason
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
After the buzzer, defenseman Greg Zanon congratulates goaltender Chris Mason, who recorded his 13th win over 20 straight starts for Nashville.

Boucher didn't get a warm welcome, as Kariya and Hartnell combined once again at 3:32 of the period. Kariya, who was skating extremely well during the game, used his speed to retrieve a dumped puck in the right corner of Chicago's zone. He curled behind the net and passed to Hartnell above the left circle. Hartnell's shot deflected off Cullimore and through Boucher's legs to make it 5-1.

Legwand struck next, seconds after emerging from the penalty box for a diving infraction. Chicago had a chance as its power play ended, but Nashville's Dan Hamhuis cleared the puck from the crease, gathered it in the corner and whipped a pass to Legwand at the far blue line. Legwand was behind the defense as he skated in, faked a shot and slid a backhand shot to the left of Boucher to make it 6-1 at 11:07.

Just 1:09 later, a steal by Jerred Smithson created an opportunity for Weber to wind up for a one-time blast from the right point. His shot was skillfully redirected past Boucher by Vasicek, who batted down at the puck to alter its course and fool the Blackhawks goalie. Vasicek's fourth of the season made it 7-1 at 12:16.

Chicago then scored its second goal at 13:37. Mason thought he had the puck covered in the crease after a shot from the left point, but Tony Salmelainen poked home the rebound to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to five.

Off-setting penalties to Sullivan and Brent Seabrook set up two minutes of four-on-four play, but it looked more like a Predators power play as the visitors set up shop in Chicago's zone and would not give up possession. The pressure eventually culminated in a goal by Ryan Suter, set up by Kariya. Suter's one-timer hit blueliner James Wisniewski and deflected past Boucher to make it 8-2 at 16:57 of the second period.

The final 20 minutes were relatively quiet, with Salmelainen posting his second goal of the game with 2:58 remaining in regulation to make it an 8-3 final.

The Predators return home to complete back-to-back games Saturday night, when they will face the St. Louis Blues in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by ordering online, calling 615-770-PUCK or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet.

NOTES: With 1 goal and 3 assists Friday, Paul Kariya collected his second four-point game as a Predator. His other four-point game came in the final regular season game of 2005-06, when he scored three times and added one assist. Kariya now has a three-game point streak (2g-5a-7pts) and has 11 points (4g-7a) in his last six contests. He has 45 points in 41 games this season... Scott Hartnell scored his team-leading 16th and 17th goals as well as his third game-winner. Not only was he one goal away from his second career hat trick but also one point shy of his 200th career NHL point... Jason Arnott has six goals in his last seven games... Chris Mason started his 20th consecutive game for Nashville and stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced. He is 9-3-0 in his last 12 starts and 16-7-2 this season... With 1 goal and 2 assists Friday, David Legwand has registered two multipoint games in his last three matches... J.P. Dumont has 4 assists over the past two games... Steve Sullivan posted a goal and an assist after going four games without a point... Chicago outshot Nashville 38-30. The Predators are 17-9-2 this season when outshot by their opponent... Nashville is 8-2-1 when tied after one period and 10-3-1 against Central Division opponents... The Predators penalty killers have killed off all 11 power plays they've faced over the past three games... Martin Erat was scratched from the lineup for Nashville.


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