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Nashville reclaims first place in Central with 8-3 drubbing of Blackhawks

Kariya had a goal and three assists, and Scott Hartnell scored twice in the Predators' 8-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night.

It was Nashville's highest-scoring game since a 9-4 win over Calgary last March 18.

Jason Arnott and David Legwand each posted a goal and two assists as the Predators pulled two points ahead of Detroit and into first place in the Central Division. Steve Sullivan, Josef Vasicek and Ryan Suter added goals for Nashville.

In his last six games, Kariya has four goals and seven assists. He leads the Predators with 45 points, on 13 goals and 32 assists.

"It was a big win for us after the last game versus Colorado (a 5-3 loss on Monday)," Kariya said. "We got back to playing Predators hockey.

"One of our big attributes is our team speed and we use that to force defencemen to turn the puck over. I thought we did a real good job of that."

The Blackhawks played at St. Louis on Thursday and were sluggish and disorganized from the start. The Predators were off New Year's Day.

"I think we caught a tired team," Sullivan said. "We jumped on them early, buried our chances and just took them out of the hockey game."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz wasn't ready to call it his team's best game of the season.

"In a lot of areas we were pretty good," Trotz said. "We took the game over. We shot pucks at the net and did the things we needed to do."

Tony Salmelainen scored twice for the Blackhawks, who surrendered their most goals in a game since a 9-1 loss at Dallas on Nov. 4, 2005. Brandon Bochenski added a goal.

"Everything went wrong," coach Denis Savard said. "Turnovers, our coverage wasn't very good in our zone. We'll work through it. It's something that can be fixed."

Chris Mason made 35 saves in his 20th straight start. He has started every game for the Predators since top goalie Tomas Vokoun underwent thumb surgery on Nov. 27.

Nikolai Khabibulin started for Chicago, but was replaced by Brian Boucher at 1:13 of the second after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Boucher yielded four goals on 17 shots.

All 11 goals were scored at even strength.

The Blackhawks recalled Bochenski from Norfolk of the AHL on Friday to take the place of right wing Martin Havlat, out with a groin pull.

Despite missing 19 games earlier this season due to a sprained ankle, Havlat was Chicago's leading scorer entering Friday's game, with 13 goals and 13 assists.

Havlat was injured Thursday in St. Louis. Savard said Havlat would probably miss Sunday's game against Phoenix.

The Predators jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period. Hartnell opened the scoring at 1:10, completing a 2-on-1 break with Kariya. Bochenski tied it with 8:11 left.

Kariya and Arnott scored goals 4:20 apart late in the period to make it 3-1.

Sullivan extended Nashville's lead to 4-1 at 1:13 of the second. After getting open in the slot, he wristed a feed from Arnott past Khabibulin.

Hartnell scored his second goal 2:19 later. His shot from the top of the slot deflected off Chicago defenceman Jassen Cullimore and past Boucher.

Legwand made it 6-1 with 8:53 left in the second, converting a breakaway with a backhander. Vasicek was credited with deflecting in Shea Weber's shot from the point just over a minute late to extend the lead to 7-1.

Salmelainen poked a rebound under Mason with 6:23 left in the second. Suter scored on a screened shot from the point with 3:03 remaining in the period.

Salmelainen completed the scoring with 2:58 left in the game.

Notes: Vokoun might return Saturday when the Predators host St. Louis. ... Nashville LW Martin Erat missed the game with a hip flexor injury. C Scott Nichol sat out his sixth game of a nine-game suspension. ... Khabibulin was pulled following the first period in the Blackhawks' previous home game, a 5-3 loss to Boston on Dec. 29, after allowing three goals on seven shots. ... Chicago LW Rene Bourque sat out his second game with a sprained ankle.


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