by Scott King
Blackhawks starting goaltender Corey Crawford needed to have more than just a solid game Sunday night vs. the Vancouver Canucks at home. He needed to have a great one. The kind of game where he was making post-to-post saves, sprawling glove saves, staying square to the shooter and devouring the puck saves; the kind of saves Hawks fans grew accustomed to seeing him make over the last several years.
Friday night in Boston Hawks back up goalie Scott Darling pitched a 30-save shutout. Crawford would need to be on top of his game vs. Vancouver, otherwise he may have to share the net with Darling more often.
Before his emergency appendectomy on December 3, Crawford was unquestionably one of the league’s elite goaltenders. Since coming back following the surgery however (December 23), he just hasn’t been himself. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has posted a less than stellar .903 save percentage since his return.
After an emotional and overjoyed salute to Jeremy Roenick where the former Hawk got down and kissed the Indian head at center ice, Crawford and the Hawks started strong.
The Blackhawks dominated possession the majority of the first period and put pucks on net. Crawford stopped Daniel Sedin on a partial breakaway late in the first. The big stop by the Hawks’ goalie sparked the team to finish up the period with two goals.
Brian Campbell put a cross-ice pass right in Richard Panik’s wheelhouse for the first goal of the game, and Patrick Kane made it 2-0 on a pass from Jonathan Toews shortly after.
Crawford also came up big on two Blackhawks’ penalty kills in the second period.
In the third period, the Hawks and Crawford let the Canucks back in the game. First Vancouver defenseman Troy Stecher scored on a power play, then forward Bo Horvat beat Hawks defenseman Michal Kempny before putting it in the net.
Jonathan Toews scored late in the third period. A couple plays later he set up Marian Hossa for an empty net goal to mark a four-point night for the captain.
Crawford may not have stood on his head all night long, but it seemed like a performance good enough to keep his net.
“It was a good win for us. We played well, we had a good cushion there. It’s tough to give up that lead, two [goals]. We didn’t get down and get frustrated, came up with a big goal. It was nice to see Tazer (Jonathan Toews) get that one too.”
Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell reached 500 career points assisting on Richard Panik’s first period goal.
“It feels good,” Campbell said following the game. “It’s a lot of hard work obviously. You show some longevity in the league. It’s nice to get. Pretty happy to keep playing, and it’s something I’ll cherish for a long time.”
With the win Corey Crawford became the fourth Blackhawks goalie in franchise history to reach 200 wins. Crawford joined hall of famers Glen Hall, Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito in the 200 win club.
“It’s pretty special,” Crawford said of the stat and the company he keeps with it. “To be able to play for a great team like Chicago, you get treated so well here, great fans, our building is always full, the city is amazing. It’s been great playing here and it’s always about winning with us. It’s nice to reach those milestones.”
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