Predators 3, Blackhawks 1

Preview | Box Score | Recap

CHICAGO (AP)—Steve Sullivan made the most of his return to Chicago, and the Nashville Predators are one win away from their first postseason berth.

Sullivan, traded on Feb. 16 to Nashville after four seasons with the Blackhawks, scored a power-play goal and assisted on another as the Predators downed the Blackhawks 3-1 Thursday night.

“That’s what they came and got me for, to score goals,” Sullivan said.

Jeremy Stevenson had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves as Nashville took both games of the home-and-home series and moved into a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.

The victory gave the Predators 89 points, the most in their six NHL seasons. Nashville is tied with idle Edmonton and St. Louis, a 3-2 loser to Detroit. The Predators and Blues have two games remaining, including a head-to-had match in Nashville on Saturday afternoon. The Oilers have one game left, but lose the tiebreaker to Nashville.

“It would be great to get back to the playoffs,” Sullivan said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Adam Hall had the other Nashville goal and Scott Walker added two assists.

After the game, the Predators were already thinking about the Blues.

“It was a huge game for us,” Vokoun said. “We’ve got be focused on Saturday afternoon. It will be a huge game again.

“That’s when you find out how good you can be.”

Stevenson is excited about the prospect.

“The next game is going to be unbelievably good,” Stevenson said. “It’s going to be a playoff game.”

Tuomo Ruutu scored for last-place Chicago, which got 26 saves from Jocelyn Thibault but remained winless (0-4-2-1) in seven games.

Sullivan opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 11:34 of the first period. With the puck in the corner, Sullivan skated around Steve Poapst and drove to the net, slipping the puck under Thibault.

“I think Joce has the edge against me,” Sullivan said. “Joce is an all-star goaltender. He had me guessing on the breakaways.”

Thibault faulted himself.

“The first goal, I usually don’t give up that kind of goal,” he said. “It was a tricky play by Sully. I should have had that save.”

Hall made it 2-0 just 28 seconds later. Following a faceoff in the neutral zone, Hall beat Jason Strudwick to the puck and skated in unopposed, lifting the puck over Thibault’s left shoulder.

Ruutu beat Vokoun low to cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the second period. After intercepting a clearing pass, Eric Daze passed to Ruutu in the slot for the quick shot.

Stevenson added a power-play goal with 3:37 remaining. Sullivan led the rush along the far boards and centered to Stevenson, who fired a shot between Thibault and the left post.

Thibault was making his first home start since Oct. 19. He had lost two road games after missing 60 following hip surgery Nov. 15.

“I’m pretty satisfied with the way I played,” he said. “I made a coupleof mistakes, but mostly I did the right things.”

Notes

The crowd applauded when Sullivan’s name was announced after the first goal. He has eight goals and 20 assists for Nashville. … Hall also scored during Nashville’s 5-2 home victory over Chicago on March 30. … Ruutu scored both Chicago goals in that loss. … Nashville last beat the Blackhawks inChicago on April 3, 2002, a span of five games.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
A. Hall A. Hall
Nashville Predators
Scored at 12:02 of 1st

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Jocelyn Thibault Buf 29 26