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Hamilton's goal earns Blackhawks 3-2 shootout victory over Predators

Jeffrey Hamilton flipped the puck over a sprawling Chris Mason, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Predators 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night for their third straight victory. The Predators lost their third straight and are 3-5-2 over their past 10 to drop out of the top of the NHL, Western Conference and Central Division standings. With the point for reaching overtime, they have a four-point lead over San Jose and Dallas for the No. 4 seed.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said everyone could start doubting everyone in the locker room.

"We're not going to point any fingers ... We're going to fix what we can fix," he said. "We've squandered some points. We've got to get winning."

Grabbing the No. 1 seed remains a remote possibility.

Detroit (110 points) would have to lose its home-and-home series with Chicago, while Nashville (106) must beat St. Louis on Thursday and at Colorado on Saturday to win a tiebreaker on overall wins, with Anaheim (106) losing at least once.

Jason Williams and Radim Vrbata scored to start the shootout for Chicago with similar shots that easily beat Mason, who had skated out to the edge of the crease. Mikael Holmqvist and Dustin Byfuglien scored in regulation for Chicago.

Blackhawks coach Denis Savard called the game possibly the gutsiest performance he's seen this season from his team.

"It's good to see, and I am proud of them ... Our guys never quit. They kept battling and kept working. Things are going to turn around here pretty soon," he said.

Dan Hamhuis and Kimmo Timonen scored for Nashville, and Paul Kariya had two assists, giving him his sixth 50-assist season and putting him one shy of 500 for his NHL career.

But the Predators went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, including one at the end of regulation and in overtime. Only Kariya scored in the shootout for Nashville with Chicago going first and Blackhawks goalie Patrick Lalime gloved Alexander Radulov's shot on Nashville's first attempt.

Trotz said he counted five shots that hit the post. Nashville also had nine turnovers.

"Nothing's going in right now," he said.

Patrick Sharp had a chance to put Chicago up off a breakaway with about three minutes left but couldn't get much of a shot off. Then he picked up a tripping penalty that put Nashville on the power play, but the Predators couldn't take advantage.

In overtime, Lalime stopped Shea Weber twice with pad saves, then stopped Peter Forsberg from the left circle late to force the shootout. Lalime said they have different motivation than Nashville.

"We never let down. We were down 2-1 and came back. Big character win," Lalime said.

The Predators received good news with the return of centre Scott Nichol, who had missed 11 games with a broken thumb. Forward Scott Hartnell (broken foot) is expected back Thursday night.

But the Predators hardly look like a team that was atop the West the past few weeks. The Blackhawks outshot them 31-26, and Chicago also killed off 52 seconds of a 5-on-3 at 11:37 when Brent Seabrook was called for tripping.

"We came out of the gate pretty slow," Timonen said of Nashville. "That's the first thing that has to change. We have to come out hard and work. We haven't done that the last few games."

Holmqvist put Chicago up 1-0 when he scored unassisted on a wrist shot at 2:26 off a turnover by Hamhuis. Timonen redirected a pass from Kariya from the right post past Lalime at 7:51 of the second and tied it 1-1.

J.P. Dumont passed the puck back to Hamhuis from the left circle, and the defenceman scored on a one-timer that beat Lalime's outstretched glove.

Byfuglien, called up Monday from Norfolk with Adrian Aucoin out, tied the game at 10:56 with a wrist shot from the right circle. He beat Mason through the legs.

Notes: Chicago improved to 5-7 in shootouts. Nashville dropped to 6-5. ... Timonen's goal was his 300th NHL point (79 goals, 221 assists). ... The Blackhawks added to their injury list. Forward Martin Havlat hurt a shoulder in the first period and did not return. Savard said Havlat's shoulder popped out and was put back in. He will see a doctor Wednesday in Chicago. Then Holmqvist hurt a shoulder in the second. He also didn't return. ... Flashing a score update of the women's national basketball championship to the tune of "Rocky Top" brought a big cheer late in the third with Tennessee leading.


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