|- Photo Gallery|
|Post-Game Comments: Denis Savard|
|Post-Game Comments: Savard on Wisniewski|
|Opponents Video: C. Mason / B. Trotz|
The Blackhawks won their 4th straight as goalie Nikolai Khabibulin turned away 30 shots and Robert Lang added two goals in the final period to beat Nashville 5-2 before the largest crowd of the season at the United Center Wednesday.
The victory moved the Hawks into 2nd place in the tight Central Division race and marked their first four-game win streak since March 2002.
|Nikolai Khabibulin blocks a shot by Nashville Predators Martin Gelinas during the third period of the Blackhawks' 5-2 victory in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)|
Once again the Hawk penalty killers led the way as they tallied their league-high 12th shorthanded goal to open the scoring at 11:27 of the 1st period. The team's leading goal scorer, Patrick Sharp, who also tops the NHL in shorthanded goals, got his 19th and 7th shortie of the season when he was setup by rookie Jonathan Toews just outside the goal crease.
Four minutes later, Sharp returned the favor by setting up Toews for his 14th of the campaign to make it 2-0 on only the third Hawk shot of the game.
Toews' goal prompted the exit of Predators goalie Dan Ellis who was replaced by Chris Mason.
Khabibulin, who was named the game's #1 star, held the Predators at bay with key saves on Radek Bonk, Jason Arnott and JP Dumont.
In the 2nd period, there was no scoring, but Khabibulin robbed Arnott and Martin Erat on successive shots at the five-minute mark and halted Bonk on a partial breakaway midway through the frame.
Nashville snapped Khabibulin's bid for a shutout two minutes into the 3rd period when Alexander Radulov knocked in Bonk's rebound just outside the goal crease to make it 2-1.
Khabibulin prevented Nashville from tying the game by stopping Martin Gelinas on a 2-on-1 a minute later and again at the 7 minute mark with Gelinas at point-blank range.
Lang gave the Hawks some breathing room at 8:55 with his 12th goal on a 15-foot wrist shot into the upper left corner after taking a pass from Dustin Byfuglien.
Jordin Tootoo had a breakaway at 10:30 but Khabibulin made another great play and forced the Predator forward to miss his shot.
Nashville cut the lead to 3-2 at 13:10 when Zidlicky banged in a rebound off a David Legwand shot.
Lang registered his second of the game 92 seconds later for a 4-2 margin when Tuomo Ruutu found him 15-feet away and his shot went through Mason's pads.
The Predators pulled Mason for an extra attacker at 18:28 but Patrick Kane tallied his 9th goal 17 seconds later to seal the verdict.
The win was costly for the Hawks, however. Defenseman James Wisniewski fought with Tootoo at the end of the game and suffered an apparent knee injury and will be out indefinitely. In the 1st period, Brent Sopel suffered a hand injury and didn't return but is expected back Sunday.
Coach Denis Savard credited Khabibulin for getting the two points for his team and the solid play of Lang.
Duncan Keith led all skaters with nearly 28 minutes of ice time.
The Hawks will be after their 5th straight win when they wind up their homestand at the United Center Sunday (6 pm) against Los Angeles.
AP Notes: The Blackhawks placed three players - RW Martin Havlat (groin), C Dave Bolland (broken finger) and LW Ben Eager (concussion) on injured reserve on Wednesday. Havlat, one of the league's top offensive talents, was injured Saturday in Ottawa and will miss at least a week. Havlat sat out 22 games earlier this season with a shoulder injury. In 12 games, he has five goals and six assists. ... The Blackhawks recalled C Martin St. Pierre and RW Michael Blunden from Rockford of the AHL. Both played against Nashville. ... Chicago LW Rene Bourque returned Wednesday after missing 15 games with a broken thumb. ... Nashville D Shea Weber missed his second game with an ankle injury. ... Predators RW Martin Erat returned after sitting out two games with the flu.
Goalie Chris Mason: "They didn't get a ton of shots, they didn't shoot the puck a lot but they had a lot of good chances. We know that you can't take chances up high especially on these guys. We talked about that before the game. They have the most shorthanded goals in the league and we continue to do that and it's biting us in the butt. That's something we try to address but it's got to stop. We can talk about it all we want but if we keep doing it it's all for naught."