By Chris Kuc
Tribune staff reporter
9:21 PM PST, December 19, 2007
They took out their frustration Wednesday night on the Nashville Predators with three first-period goals en route to a 5-2 victory before a crowd of 14,151 at the United Center. The victory snapped the Hawks' two-game skid and gave them just their second victory in eight games this month.
The Hawks took a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes 2 seconds into the first period. Martin Havlat sent a pass from behind the net to Robert Lang, who snapped a shot past Nashville goaltender Chris Mason for his 10th goal of the season. Petri Kontiola, who joined the top line after being recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League, picked up his first NHL point with the other assist.
"It was one of those games I think we needed," Lang said. "It's nice to have one of those games when you're in control the whole time.
"Everybody played well. Every line did what it was supposed to. The guys who were supposed to score did, and everybody else did their jobs. It's one of those nights that's pretty much perfect, and the payday was there."
Dustin Byfuglien made it 2-0 when he skated around the Nashville net and stuffed in a wrap-around 2:21 later for his eighth goal of the season. James Wisniewski and Ben Eager were awarded assists.
The early scores were enough for Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who lifted Mason in favor of Dan Ellis.
But the Hawks struck again to take a 3-0 lead when Patrick Sharp scored short-handed at 10:01. With teammate Brent Seabrook in the box for cross-checking, Jonathan Toews crossed the blue line and dropped a pass to Sharp, who blasted a slap shot past Ellis for his team-leading 15th goal of the season and league-leading sixth goal while down a man.
"We learned a lesson that losses can pile up quickly and things can snowball in a hurry, so we knew it was going to take big efforts from everybody," Sharp said. "It was nice to score early, nice to play with the lead for once. I thought we played a very solid three periods of hockey."
The Havlat-Lang connection struck again at 3:15 of the second to give the Hawks a seemingly comfortable 4-0 advantage. Havlat controlled the puck and shoveled a pass to Lang, who fired a shot from the right faceoff dot past Ellis.
The Hawks' Yanic Perreault committed a costly penalty that allowed the Predators to get back into the game. As Perreault was falling to the ice, his stick came up and clipped Nashville's Jed Ortmeyer in the face, and Perreault was sent to the box for four minutes at 3:44 of the second period.
The Predators didn't take long to cash in. J.P. Dumont scored just 43 seconds into the penalty, and Radek Bonk did the same at 5:37 to cut the Hawks' lead in half.
Sharp's second goal of the night with 1:05 remaining in the second pushed the Hawks' lead to 5-2. Sharp poked in a rebound of a Patrick Kane shot while the Hawks were on the power play. Havlat picked up his third assist of the night and 11th point in his 10 games since his return from a serious shoulder injury.
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