There is more to being tough than dropping the gloves or delivering a big hit.
Sometimes it means refraining from retaliation after you're drilled with a clean hit--and then making a big play.
Martin Havlat not only was one of the best players on the ice Thursday night in the Blackhawks 3-1 victory over the Predators, but perhaps the toughest as well.
In the first period, Havlat set up the Hawks' first goal long before he closed the scoring with an empty-netter after Jeff Hamilton scored the game-winner midway through the third.
Havlat has eight points in three games--four goals and four assists--but it was his poise that stood out against the Predators.
With the puck at his feet and battering-ram Jordin Tootoo closing in on him, Havlat was able to get the puck to center ice and Radim Vrbata just before Tootoo blasted him.
Vrbata then found Michal Handzus, who beat goalie Chris Mason to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
It would have been easy for Havlat--a marked man in the opening period--to strike back and take a cheap penalty against Tootoo that would have ended the play before the goal.
"Sometimes you have to take a hit to make a play and [Havlat] did," Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin said. "It was a perfect case of leading by example."
After Havlat had a four-point night in the season opener at Nashville, the Predators were determined to hit him at every opportunity Thursday night. Havlat not only expected it but was unfazed.
"That's normal, and that's hockey," he said.
Havlat didn't even have a problem with Tootoo's blow.
"It was a pretty good hit," he said.
Once the Predators decided to play instead trying to hit Havlat, they gradually took control of the game and tied it on Jason Arnott's shot at 5 minutes 31 seconds of the third period.
Nashville then had a two-man advantage for 1:26, but the Hawks killed the penalties and then took the lead on Hamilton's second goal of the season.
For the Hawks, the victory could be pivotal because they go on the road for three of their next four games above .500 at 2-1. It's only the second time since the 1996-97 season that the Hawks are above .500 after three games.
"You don't want to lose at home," Khabibulin said. "Our home record is going be important to make the playoffs."
The announced crowd of 8,008 is believed to be the smallest since the Hawks moved into the United Center in January 1995. . . . Despite being "awesome" in practices recently, according to Hawks coach Trent Yawney, Matt Keith and Adam Burish were healthy scratches for a third straight game. Both may see action in games in St. Louis on Saturday and in Denver on Monday. . . . The Hawks are believed to be in the market for a defenseman and a roster move may come after Monday's game in Colorado. If the Hawks don't trade for an NHL defenseman, they may bring one up from Norfolk and send either Keith, Burish or Reed Low down. . . . Low had five shifts Thursday for 3:07 in ice time and seven minutes in penalties. ... Yawney said defenseman Brent Seabrook isn't on the power play because he wants to give him "a [little] break. He's not here to carry the team. We just want to get his foundation set and he'll be back on the power play soon." Yawney added that Seabrook has to earn a spot on the power play and "he has struggled early, by his own admission. We want to put him in situations to succeed. To put him on the power play when he's struggling isn't the right idea."
Blackhawks 3, Predators 1
Hawks' Havlat hits 'em where it hurts
Avoids retaliation, notches assist, goal
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