NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The first goal usually gives a team confidence. Scoring the first three goals makes a team hard to beat.
For the second game in a row the Chicago Blackhawks started out quickly in the first period with three goals on the way to a 6-1 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday night. On Wednesday night, they scored four first-period goals in a 7-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"For our team, I don't know if it's because we are young or what, but that first goal seems to give us a lot of confidence," said Chicago's Duncan Keith who scored the first goal. "It gives us a big boost."
It was the end of a seven-game road trip for the Blackhawks, who ended the trip with a 3-2-2 record.
"This is two games straight that we have played with some structure," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "We have been protecting the puck. We have won a lot of the battles we have faced. It has taken a lot of grit and character to play the way we have in the last two games."
Jonathan Toews scored a pair of goals and assisted on another. Duncan Keith, Rene Bourque, Cam Barker and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks.
Toews was playing in his third game since missing 16 with a sprained knee. These were his first goals since his return. He had a pair of assists in his first two games.
"We are getting some luck goals here and there the last couple of games," Toews said. "I think it is the result of the effort we have been putting out. I don't think it is just a coincidence."
Keith opened the scoring a little more than a minute into the game setting the tone for the Blackhawks as he scored on a one-timer from low inside the left faceoff circle against Nashville goaltender Chris Mason.
Toews scored the first of his two goals at 6:22 when he skated down the left side and around the back of the net to score on a wraparound behind Mason's back.
At 12:42, Toews struck again from the left circle as he put the puck between Mason's leg pads.
After the third goal, Mason was sent to the bench and replaced by Dan Ellis.
"We came out with zero intensity," Mason said. "We had no jump or energy. We were terrible."
In the second period, the Blackhawks did not let up. At 2:28, Brent Sopel skated just inside the blue line and sent the puck into the slot. Bourque, near the top of the slot, beat Ellis to his glove side.
Barker scored the fifth goal less than a minute later. He blasted a one-timer from high inside the left circle that went past Ellis wide to his left.
In the third period, Sharp took a shot from the left circle that beat Ellis to his stick side for the sixth goal for the Blackhawks at 3:47.
"We didn't have enough people who were willing to step up and play Nashville Predators hockey," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Chicago is in their playoff mode right now. They have everyone healthy and they have two very talented lines.
"We just weren't prepared the way we should have been. It's not any one person's fault. It is my fault. It is the team's fault. It's the assistant coaches' fault."
Nashville's Jason Arnott scored on the power play from the middle of the slot, catching Patrick Lalime out of position at 6:12.
"Things had been going pretty well for us," Arnott said. "This was one bad game. Usually we are able to recover, but we came out flat. We have to get back to the basics. We can
Lalime stopped 24 of 25 shots, narrowly missing his first shutout of the season.
"Whenever I get the call I have to be ready," Lalime said. "The thing I liked most about this game is that we didn't lay back. Sometimes you take a good lead and you just sit back. We played a good game from start to finish."
Notes: This was the third time this season the Blackhawks have beaten the Predators by scoring five or goals. Nashville's Kevin Klein was reassigned to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment. Chicago recalled Corey Crawford from Rockford of the AHL as a backup goaltender. The Blackhawks are 16-1-1 when scoring more than four goals in a game. They are 6-6-1 in the second game of back-to-backs. Arnott scored his 20th goal of the season and his 750th career point.