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Blackhawks down Predators 5-4, clinch playoff slot

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a goal by Chicago Blackhawks left wing Viktor Stalberg, left,, of Sweden, against the Nashville Predators in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a goal by Chicago Blackhawks left wing Viktor Stalberg, left,, of Sweden, against the Nashville Predators in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mike Strasinger)
By Teresa M. Walker
AP Sports Writer / March 31, 2012
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NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Brent Seabrook scored at 8:19 of the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot Saturday night, beating the Nashville Predators 5-4 after blowing a 4-0 lead.

Nashville won the season series 4-1-1, but Chicago pulled within a point of the fourth-place Predators in the Western Conference and tied idle Detroit with 97 points.

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland each scored power-play goals, and Viktor Stalberg had a goal. The Blackhawks had to work for their first win over Nashville this season.

Shea Weber scored twice, and Alexander Radulov and Martin Erat had a goal apiece. Ryan Suter had three assists as Nashville lost for just the third time in regulation since Jan. 5.

Seabrook put a snap shot past goalie Pekka Rinne off a cross-ice pass from Andrew Shaw for the winning goal.

The Blackhawks were well rested after beating St. Louis in a shootout Thursday night and had plenty of fans eager to see them clinch on the road. Nashville beat the Red Wings 4-1 on Friday night in Detroit before flying back home, and it showed in the opening minutes as the Blackhawks took the first six shots.

But Matt Halischuk went to the box for high-sticking at 1:38, and the Blackhawks converted on Sharp's 32nd goal this season as he beat Rinne's outstretched left leg at 2:25 of the first. Nashville had given up two power-play goals in the past 14 games, and the Predators gave up their second in this game when Bolland scored off a pass from Marian Hossa 1:05 into the second period.

The Blackhawks appeared ready to avenge a 6-1 loss to Nashville on March 25 in Chicago as Kane scored on a breakaway under Rinne's right leg at 6:50 of the second, and Stalberg scored at 8:35 on a shot that spun Rinne around.

Nashville finally got going after Bolland went to the box for interference. Erat scored from the right circle off an assist from Ryan Suter at 9:29, and Weber made it 4-2 when he scored off a snap shot 49 seconds later.

Radulov pulled the Predators to 4-3 by splitting Chicago defensemen Sean O'Donnell and Seabrook skating up the slot, and beating goalie Corey Crawford with a backhander to his glove side at 4:38 of the third. Then Weber tied it with a power-play goal off a slap shot at 7:08.

Chicago took back the lead on Seabrook's goal at 8:19. He got his ninth on a snap shot off a cross-ice pass from Andrew Shaw. Nashville had plenty of chances, but Crawford didn't let another puck past.

Notes: Chicago improved to 25-7-2 when scoring first. ... The Blackhawks now have picked up at least a point in 13 of their past 15 games. ... Nashville center David Legwand had two assists, giving him 500 career points. ... Erat has a career-high 58 points. With his assists, Suter has a career-high 46 points. ... Nashville added to its franchise record with its 22nd sellout this season.

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