Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (39), of Russia, blocks a shot by Nashville Predators\' David Legwand, front, during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, in Chicago. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Nam Y. Huh
CHICAGO - The Chicago Blackhawks came out stronger - and came away with a much-needed victory Sunday night.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves, and Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland and Martin Havlat scored to help Chicago snap a two-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks, 13-2-4 at home and 13-1-4 at the United Center, rebounded after dropping the opener of the home-and-home series 4-1 in Nashville on Saturday night.
Khabibulin was sharp, but wasn't forced to make many tough saves, in improving to 13-3-4.
The biggest difference for the Blackhawks: A stronger start and more consistency shift after shift than in their previous two outings. That translated to additional scoring opportunities and tighter defensive-zone play.
"It was a better all-around effort," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was nice winning a tight game, on the line from start to finish. "We had to keep doing the little things right and got rewarded."
Although the game was 2-1 until Havlat scored into an empty net with 10 seconds left, Chicago had better chances than Nashville and seemed in control.
"We have to play hard and simple," Bolland said. "If we get off our game, we screw up. If we play it simple and hard, it will be an easy game for us."
"I don't think it was a pretty game, but we accomplished what we needed to," Khabibulin said. "We're not going to score four, five goals in every one. We have to know how to win when we score two."
Martin Erat scored for the Predators, who won their previous two games, both at home.
Nashville's Dan Ellis made 30 saves. He stopped several prime scoring opportunities - especially in the third period - to keep the Predators within a goal.
"They had a very strong offence tonight and generated a lot of quality chances," Ellis said. "They showed a little more of the Chicago skill and speed we're used to seeing."
"I thought we gave up too many good chances to team we can't afford to," Nashville's Shea Weber added. "We can't play a high-risk game against a team like this. (Ellis) made a couple of big saves and held us in there."
Byfuglien opened the scoring with a power-play goal 9:11 into the first period. He skated from the left boards, turned and ripped a rising, screened shot from the circle that beat Ellis high on the glove side.
Erat tied it on a tip-in just under two minutes later. Although Erat seemed to be covered by Chicago's Brent Seabrook, he managed to deflect in Jordan Tootoo's pinpoint pass across the front of the crease.
Bolland scored at 5:58 of the second to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. Following Ellis' pad save on Andrew Ladd's shot from the slot, Bolland tucked in the rebound.
Ellis stopped Bolland on a breakaway with a left pad save midway through the third. A couple of minutes later, Havlat hit the post, then Ellis made a close-in stop on Ladd.
Khabibulin had to be alert on several Nashville chances - mostly from sharp angles or longer range - in the third. He quickly covered up rebounds or they were picked up by his teammates.
Havlat's empty-net goal sealed Chicago's victory.
Notes: Predators C Jason Arnott sat out with a lower-body injury, suffered in the second period Saturday against the Blackhawks in Nashville. He's out day-to-day. Predators C Steve Sullivan, who played for the first time in nearly two years Saturday following two back surgeries, didn't play Sunday. The rest was planned and Sullivan is expected to play Tuesday night in Toronto. Nashville D Greg de Vries missed his third game due to illness. ... Chicago RW Troy Brouwer and D Aaron Johnson were healthy scratches. ... The crowd of 21,666 was Chicago's 19th sellout in 19 home games this season.