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Blackhawks down Predators 5-4, clinch playoff slot

Associated Press Modified: March 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm •  Published: March 31, 2012
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks are in the playoffs for a fourth straight season, and they didn't have to wait around to the final minute of the regular season this time around.

They might want to work on their defense just a bit in the three remaining games.

Brent Seabrook scored at 8:19 of the third period, and the Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot Saturday night, beating the Nashville Predators 5-4 after blowing a 4-0 lead.

"It's a great game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Very entertaining. I'm sure the fans enjoyed the game and nerve-racking for coaches."

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. The Blackhawks have three games left to see if they pass Detroit or Nashville for home-ice advantage to start the postseason, and only Sunday's game against Minnesota will be in Chicago.

"We'll see how it works out," Quenneville said. "Where we're at, we've got to catch two pretty good teams right in front of us, and so we'll see how that plays itself out."

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

"It's one of those things," Seabrook said. "A 4-4 tie, and we just wanted to continue to work hard and continue the little things and try to get one and get the win tonight."

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. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he thought they had a chance of at least grabbing a point after tying the game in the third.

"If you win tonight, you have a little bit of breathing room," Trotz said. "They forced us to win all three of our games now ... So it's still in our control in terms of the 4 or 5 seed. What's not in our control now is home-ice advantage."

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.

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