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Havlat sparks Blackhawks in wild win over Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Martin Havlat needed one game to show
Chicago what he brings to his new team. The Blackhawks showed him
they won't be giving up easily this season.

Chicago's biggest offseason acquisition, Havlat had two goals
and two assists to lead the Blackhawks to an 8-6 victory over the
Nashville Predators on Thursday night in the teams' season opener.
The victory ended a six-game winless skid in Nashville, Chicago's
first here since Nov. 7, 2003.

The Blackhawks rallied from 2-0 and 4-3 deficits.

"I really like the guys battled back, especially early in the
game," Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. "There was no quit in
them, and they deserve a lot of credit."

Havlat got them started. The forward, picked up in a three-team
trade from Ottawa in July, scored on a breakaway less than 30
seconds after Nashville went up 2-0 in the first five minutes of
the game.

"A 1-0 win would've been the same feeling," Havlat said.

Havlat's empty-net goal with 54.8 seconds left came after David
Legwand and Steve Sullivan had scored in a 4-minute span, the last
at 18:23, to pull Nashville within 7-6. The Predators squandered a
4-3 lead when Chicago scored four straight goals starting at the
end of the second period.

Rene Bourque scored shorthanded 4 minutes into the third, then
added an assist on Bryan Smolinski's goal at 9:40. Smolinski
assisted on Radim Vrbata's goal late in the third.

Martin LaPointe and Michal Handzus each added a goal and an
assist for Chicago.

Legwand finished with two goals and an assist for Nashville, and
Ryan Suter had two assists.

Chicago, one of the NHL's original six franchises, came into
this season trailing the series with the one-time expansion
Predators 19-18-4 and had not won in six straight games in
Nashville.

But Patrick Sharp tipped a sloppy pass from Sullivan to Bourque,
skated up the left side and shot the puck through the legs of Tomas
Vokoun for a 5-4 lead Chicago wouldn't lose.

Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin stopped Scott Hartnell from in
front of the crease twice in the next few minutes and helped a team
that finished with the third-fewest points in the NHL last season
start off with the victory by stopping 40 shots.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said his Predators had 33 scoring
chances, but only managed two goals on 15 shots in the third
period.

Yawney said Khabibulin's saves came when needed most.

"Even though he gives up six, he deserves to get the win with
the number of good saves he made," Yawney said.

Havlat got Chicago on the board after falling behind 2-0,
scoring on breakaway in the first. He skated up and fed the puck to
LaPointe at the mouth of the crease for an easy power-play goal at
14:24 of the second that tied it at 4.

Nashville paid for putting most of its money toward offense by
signing Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont with five young defensemen.
Captain Kimmo Timonen came in with 493 games' NHL experience
compared to 418 for his five fellow defensemen.

"I think that was a good wake-up call for us," Timonen said.
"We got a lot of offense, but we can't win games like that."

With little help, Vokoun looked very rusty in his first game
that counts since April 1. He missed the final eight games last
season because of blood clots that kept him out of the playoffs.

"We knew they were a dangerous team," Vokoun said. "I don't
think the team were listening good. We were listening to it, but we
didn't believe it, and they showed us."

Game notes
The eight goals allowed ties the most Nashville has ever
given up. ... Chicago went 13-1-4 last season when scoring four or
more goals. ... This is the 22nd time Nashville has scored six or
more goals but the first time to do so and lose. ... Arnott's
penalty in the second period put him at 1,001 penalty minutes in
his career. ... Original Predators captain Tom Fitzgerald, who
recently retired from the NHL after 17 years, dropped the
ceremonial puck.