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Hamilton's tip-in gives Hawks edge over winless Preds

CHICAGO (AP) -- Martin Havlat, a highly touted, highly paid
rising star in the NHL, had a goal and an assist in the Chicago
Blackhawks' 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday
night.

But it was Jeff Hamilton, a forward who came to training camp on
a tryout basis, who set the stage for Chicago's win.

Hamilton scored on a tip-in with 7:40 left in the third period
to snap a 1-all tie. Havlat, who had assisted on Michal Handzus'
first-period goal, then scored into an empty net with 36 seconds
left.

Hamilton redirected Bryan Smolinski's cross-ice pass just under
the outstretched glove of Nashville goalie Chris Mason.

"It wasn't just a cross-ice pass," Hamilton said. "It was a
saucer pass that beat two defensemen and it was my job to put it
in."

Hamilton, who was in the New York Islanders' organization, has
two goals and an assist in three games for Chicago. In 14 NHL games
coming into this season, he had two goals and six assists.

Havlat signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Blackhawks
(2-1-0) after being acquired from Ottawa in July. He has four goals
and four assists in three games.

But tighter defensive play, not offense, was the key to
Chicago's win.

The Blackhawks and Predators entered the game with the two
highest goals-against averages in the NHL. Chicago's was 5.50
through two games; Nashville's 7.00 through two.

"We were much better than the first two games," Havlat said.
"We played much better defensively.

"We were just trying to make things simple and that's what we
did tonight."

Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 37 saves, lost a bid for his first
shutout as a Blackhawk when Jason Arnott tied it 1-all at 5:31 of
the third period.

"I thought for the most past we played pretty good tonight,"
Khabibulin said. "We've just got to keep building on that."

Chicago coach Trent Yawney had ripped his team for undisciplined
play following a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Saturday.

"I think we got the message that was unacceptable," Khabibulin
said.

Although Arnott's goal got the Predators back into the game,
Nashville (0-3-0) remained winless.

Mason made his first start, spelling starting goalie Tomas
Vokoun, and made 28 saves.

He said he's not concerned about Nashville's slow start.

"I am surprised," Mason said. "I think everybody is, but I'm
not too worried. We've been in every game.

"We have done things that have kind of given the game away and
I think that is something we can easily fix. It's no time to
panic."

Handzus's goal at 4:57 of the first was the completion of a
give-and-go with linemate Radim Vrbata.

After Handzus dropped the puck for Vrbata on right wing, he cut
to the edge of the crease. When both Nashville defensemen committed
to Vrbata, he dished the puck back to Handzus, who was wide open.

Arnott tied it at 5:31 of the third. Set up by Paul Kariya's
pass from the right boards, Arnott ripped a one-timer from 20 feet
out in the slot past Khabibulin.

Khabibulin's last shutout came with Tampa Bay in 2004, when he
posted five shutouts during the playoffs to help lead the Lightning
to the Stanley Cup. He signed a four-year, $27 million free agent
contract with the Blackhawks in August 2005.

The Blackhawks beat the Predators 8-6 in the team's
season-openers last week.

Game notes
In Nashville's opening losses, Vokoun had allowed 13 goals.
... The Predators assigned D Alex Henry to Milwaukee of the AHL. He
had been out with a cracked bone in his foot. D Greg Zanon and Fs
Scott Nichol and Vernon Fiddler were healthy scratches for the
Predators. ... Rookie Fs Matt Keith and Adam Burish were Chicago's
healthy scratches.