The Blackhawks again made it a quick night for a Nashville Predators starting goaltender.
A week after knocking out Nashville's goalie with two goals on two shots, the Hawks weren't quite as economical, but dispatched Predators starter Dan Ellis with goals on two of their first three shots during Wednesday night's 5-2 victory before a crowd of 20,511—the first sellout of the season—at the United Center.
The victory was the Hawks' fourth in a row and improved their December record to 5-6. They had dropped six of their first seven this month.
After the Hawks forced out starter Chris Mason in favor of Ellis during their 5-2 victory over the Predators on Dec. 19—the victory that began the Hawks' current streak—they forced Ellis out and Mason in Wednesday night.
Patrick Sharp worked his short-handed magic when he scored his league-leading seventh at the 8 minute, 33 second mark of the first period.
With teammate Martin Lapointe in the penalty box for high-sticking, Jonathan Toews carried the puck into the Predators zone and passed to Sharp in front of the net and he beat Ellis for his 19th goal of the season. Defenseman Duncan Keith added his ninth assist on the play. The Hawks lead the NHL with 12 short-handed goals this season and Sharp is approaching Dirk Graham's single-season club record of 10 during the 1988-89 season.
"Today was a tough game," Sharp said. "We wanted to come out and get off to a good start. We got to them early and we were able to carry it through the whole game."
Toews made it 2-0 with his 14th goal of the season at 15:38. The rookie took a pass from Sharp and sent a wrist shot past Ellis on his stick side. Sharp recorded his 13th assist and rookie Patrick Kane notched his 26th. That was enough—again—for Nashville coach Barry Trotz as he replaced Ellis with Mason.
"That's always nice," center Robert Lang said. "It feels great just because we didn't have that many shots on net (22). We had good quality chances and guys put them in."
After a scoreless second period, Nashville made it 2-1 at 2:05 of the third as Alexander Radulov knocked in a rebound of a Radek Bonk wrap-around attempt for his eighth goal of the season.
Lang's 12th goal of the season—and fourth against the Predators—at 8:55 gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead. Lang skated between the circles, drew the puck to his forehand and sent a shot into the upper right corner of the net. Defensemen Dustin Byfuglien picked up his eighth assist and Cam Barker his first.
After Nashville again cut it to a one-goal lead on Marek Zidlicky's second of the season at 13:10 of the third, Lang made it 4-2 Hawks with his second of the game. Tuomo Ruutu skated behind the Nashville net and fed Lang who shot it past Mason.
Kane scored into an empty net with 1:15 remaining for his ninth of the season.
Nikolai Khabibulin collected his fourth straight victory as he made 30 saves. Khabibulin hasn't allowed more than three goals in seven straight starts.
"There's confidence in the locker room, no matter who's in the lineup," Khabibulin said. "In a game like tonight we didn't play our best game but we made the big plays when we really needed it. As soon as they scored a goal we got one right back, they scored another one, we got it right back. The guys are playing with a lot of confidence."
Defenseman James Wisniewski injured his knee in a fight at the end of the game and will be out four to six weeks.
•Martin Havlat is placed on injured reserve again. PAGE 5.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun