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Lowly Blue Jackets visit first-place Blackhawks

The Blue Jackets showed last time out just how dangerous their power play can be. Now if only they could find a way to win on the road.

Columbus tries to avoid a fifth straight defeat this evening as it takes on the NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks, owners of just one regulation loss so far in December.

Behind a hat trick from Jeff Carter and the first of two goals by Ryan Johansen, the Blue Jackets raced out to a 4-1 lead on Thursday in Nashville in the first period and also led 5-2 during the second following their fourth power-play goal of the game. However, the Predators ended up scoring four unanswered goals, tying the game early in the third before Martin Erat fired home the game-winner with 8.4 seconds left in regulation to hand Columbus a 6-5 defeat.

Curtis Sanford allowed all six goals on 38 shots for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four straight and six of seven. They also fell to 3-11-2 on the road this season despite Carter's third career hat trick.

"We play a great first two periods for so many games, and in the third periods, we just collapse," said Johansen, who snapped a 16-game goal drought. "We practice all week working on our third periods and things we should do a little smarter, and to get a loss again in the third period like that is tough."

Columbus won't have too much time to fell sorry for itself as it faces a Blackhawks club that is 12-2-3 at home this year, including 5-0-1 in the past six. That is part of an 8-1-1 December for Chicago, which comes out of the Christmas break leading the NHL with 48 points.

The Blackhawks began their homestand with a 5-1 win over the Canadiens on Wednesday, with goals from Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp 21 seconds apart in the second period igniting the offense.

Corey Crawford made 20 saves in his first appearance since Dec. 5. Ray Emery had started the previous six games, winning five straight prior to a loss in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20.

"It felt great. Our team's been playing so well, but I was pretty hungry to get back in there," said Crawford. "It's a huge game too, before the break, to pick up some points."

Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Jonathan Toews also scored to back Crawford. Toews scored for the 10th time in 14 games and is among the league leaders with 20 goals, while Sharp has eight goals and six helpers over his past 11 games.

"We didn't give up too many opportunities but when we did Corey was there to make the big save,' said Sharp. "It was a nice game."

Marian Hossa added an assist to keep his point streak alive. He has four goals and eight assists over his seven-game run.

The Blackhawks have outscored the Blue Jackets 11-5 in taking the first two encounters of the season series, with Columbus going 2-for-10 on the power play while getting a goal and two assists from Vinny Prospal.

Nick Leddy leads Chicago this year with four points -- all assists -- versus Columbus, while Toews has a pair of goals and an assist.