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Nash scores twice as Blue Jackets hold off Blackhawks

Oct 8, 2006 - 3:27 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Rick Nash helped give the Columbus Blue Jackets a lead too big for the Chicago Blackhawks to overcome.

Nash scored two goals and Manny Malhotra added a tally and an assist as the Blue Jackets rallied from an early two-goal deficit and held on for a 5-4 victory over the Blackhawks, who were playing their home opener.

The youngest player to lead the league in goals when he was a co-winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2003-04, Nash sparked a comeback by the Blue Jackets, who rebounded from Friday's overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

"Last game was tough, losing a 2-0 lead with eight minutes left, so to come back tonight really showed some character," Nash said. "They ended up in the same boat we were in last night."

With Columbus trailing, 2-0, the 22-year-old Nash ignited the rally on a power play with 5:01 left in the first period, when he converted defenseman Ron Hainsey's feed from in front.

After Jaroslav Balastik tied the contest later in the opening session, Malhotra gave the Blue Jackets a 3-2 lead with Columbus' third consecutive power-play tally midway through the second period.

The Blue Jackets widened the lead 55 seconds later as David Vyborny made a steal at Chicago's blue line and fed Nash, who lifted the puck just underneath the crossbar. It was Columbus' first even-strength goal of the campaign.

"Vyborny took it to the net and I went to the net also. Fortunately, the bounce off the goalie ended up right on my stick and I put it in," Nash said of his first goal. "The second one was a great pass from Vyborny and I just went right across the goalie and put it upstairs."

Defenseman Duvie Westcott added a goal with 6:27 left in the second session and goaltender Pascal Leclaire made 18 saves for the Blue Jackets, who raised their record in road openers to 2-3-1.

"I just got lucky with a bank shot," Westcott said of his tally. "I let Rick Nash score the nice goals, and mine are just however they go in. I'll take'em."

Chicago made the game close by scoring twice in a 23-second span late in the third period.

After Patrick Sharp knocked in a rebound of a shot by Michal Handzus on a power play, Martin Havlat netted his third of the season by batting the puck out of mid-air and past LeClaire with 3:56 remaining.

Handzus collected three assists and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 18 shots for the Blackhawks, who have not opened a season with two victories since 1996-97.

"We had too many breakdowns and mistakes, especially during the second period," Handzus said. "We need to do the things we are being told and follow the game plan."

Chicago opened the scoring at 5:31 of the first, when Radim Vrbata skated around Leclaire and banked the puck off the skate of captain Adrian Aucoin, who was credited with his first goal of the campaign.

Just 1:45 later, Handzus passed the puck to Jeff Hamilton, whose one-timer from the right faceoff circle got past Leclaire with the man advantage for a 2-0 edge.

"That was a bad start and not what you are hoping for," Leclaire said. "Those things happen over the course of a season, so you can't worry about it. We just started to take it a shift a time and we shut them down."

After finishing last year 28th in wins (26) and points (65) and 29th in goals (211), the Blackhawks have scored 12 times in splitting their first two contests. Chicago fell to 20-10-11 in home openers.

"One word sums it up - turnovers," Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "It's hard to play disciplined without disciplined people. Try it, it doesn't work."

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