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Blackhawks return home and win
Perhaps seeking refuge from the harsh conditions outside, a bird swooped from the United Center rafters during the first period Sunday night and stood at center ice.
That's pretty much what happened with the Blackhawks as they landed at home after a three-game trip in need of a victory, and they used their home rink as a safe haven to beat the Nashville Predators 3-1.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and improved the Hawks' record to 13-2-4 at home and 23-10-7 overall.
Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland and Martin Havlat scored, and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves in front of a crowd of 21,666 to avenge a loss to the Predators 24 hours earlier in Nashville.
"The last couple of games we didn't have good starts or first periods," said Khabibulin, who raised his record to 13-3-4, including 7-0-3 on home ice.
"Whether it's mentally or physically, we were a little flat. Coming back home we really wanted to have a good start and use the fans to our advantage. We lost to these guys [Saturday night], so we wanted to redeem ourselves. It wasn't a pretty game, but we accomplished what we needed to."
Byfuglien set the tone midway through the first period when he sent a laser beam of a slap shot past Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis while the Hawks were on a power play. The blast from the top of the left circle sailed past Ellis' left shoulder and into the corner of the net.
"We had a good mind-set that we needed to come into our own barn with great expectations," said Byfuglien, whose goal was his ninth. "We're the type of team that we can't lose back-to-back. We were not going to lose three in a row, so we just had to come out focused and ready to go.
"We were in a little slump and we got down on ourselves and got away from our game plan. We got back into it [Sunday night] and got on the puck and did our job."
After Nashville's Martin Erat tied it 1-1 after one period, Bolland got the game-winner early in the second. Teammate Andrew Ladd controlled the puck and sent a shot from the left circle that Ellis handled. But the rebound came to Bolland on the doorstep, and the center banged home his eighth of the year.
"We rebounded well from [Saturday night's] performance by playing hard and simple and by creating a lot of second chances that kept the pressure on Nashville," Bolland said.
"We're a team that has a lot of heart and determination, so there was no way we were going to lose two straight to the same team or three in a row overall."
Khabibulin held strong in the third, and Havlat capped the scoring in the waning seconds with an empty-net goal, his 12th.
"The Blackhawks were a lot more physical [Sunday night]," Predators winger J.P. Dumont said. "They are a very skilled team, and they came out more determined. Their goalie made some big saves in the third period."
Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith had two assists as the Hawks evened their record in January to 3-3.
"It's important we came out and had a good first period and good start," Keith said. "We hadn't had that in the past few games."