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Hawks Come back from Christmas with solid win

It’s as if the Chicago Blackhawks were telling the Nashville Predators something in their 4-1 victory Saturday night:

We know you’re looking over our shoulder, now take a step back.

They performed the hockey equivalent of such, playing a smart and crisp game -- especially for the day after Christmas -- with contributions from all class of players.

The key moment was indicative of the Hawks night. After a referee's call correctly went against them and the Predators had tied it with a Martin Erat goal, they used a combination of hard work and skill to retake the lead for good.

Patrick Kane and Brent Sopel won a battle behind the Hawks' net. And as Kane came out with the puck, it rolled to Jonathan Toews. Toews chipped it up-ice, back to Kane, who went into another gear. A two-on-one with Troy Brouwer developed before Kane roofed one for his 13th of the year.

Work and skill. When it’s clicking for the Hawks they are nearly unbeatable. They owned the rest of the second period, scoring two more within minutes.

The Hawks' hard work paid off in the infractions department as well. They induced one of the least penalized teams in the league into four minor penalties in just the first two periods -- when the game was decided. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was just enough. Two of the penalties came back to back in the first period, leading to a Dustin Byfuglien wrister from the point. Their small parade to the box is unusual for the Predators and it slowed them down.

Tomas Kopecky woke up from his year-long slumber to record two assists, including one, on a beautiful redirect of a Duncan Keith shot, which Patirck Sharp then tapped in.

Incredibly, the Hawks once again lowered their league-leading goals-against average, which started the night at 1.97 per game. Cristobal Huet did his part, as he has so often lately.

Joel Quenneville was especially effusive on Comcast SportsNet after the game. In admitting the importance of the game, he used words and phrases like, “We played a perfect road game." "We were responsible in all zones." "We got to the net well." "We expect a tougher game tomorrow.”

That last line felt more like, “This one was almost too easy. The Preds have to play better than this!”

And maybe they will.

And, really, it wasn’t a perfect game. Brent Seabrook coughed up the puck, which led to Nashville’s only goal. Huet felt pressure at times, but the Hawks didn’t panic and prevented any momentum from swinging in the Predators direction.

Six points ahead in the standings and ahead, again, in the season series, which has a closing performance Sunday night, just 23 hours after the last one tipped. The Predators should have better to give at the United Center, or it will be an eight-point lead before you’re done with Christmas leftovers.