CHICAGO – The loudest roar of the season to date came with a simple call of his name. There was a good reason for that.
It had been 10 months and one day since Corey Crawford took the ice at the United Center for the Blackhawks. That was on Dec. 17 against the Wild, and the goalie would play in the next two road games before he was sidelined him for the rest of the season.
His ailment was a mystery through the Winter, Spring, and Summer before it was finally revealed to be lingering concussion affects early in the fall. Crawford wasn’t cleared to practice in full till the start of October, and his first start wasn’t made official until Thursday morning.
So when Crawford’s name was called during the introduction of the starting lineup, a huge roar came from the United Center crowd to welcome the goalie back to the ice for his first start of the season. What was typical for the goalie over the better part of this decade was now something special.
Unfortunately, the Coyotes, who featured a number of Crawford’s former teammates, spoiled his return to the lineup as they came into the United Center and left with a 4-1 victory Thursday night.
Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots he faced on the night, but was outdone by former Blackhawks goalie Antti Ratta. He made 33 saves on night to help Arizona their second win of the year.
Crawford was solid in the first period as he stopped 11 of 12 shots from Arizona to start off the contest. Lawson Crouse beat him for a goal 11:43 into the period, and the lead held until Erik Gustafsson tied it in the second. But 2:03 later, former Blackhawks center Vinnie Hinsotroza, who was part of the Marian Hossa contract trade, got his first goal as a member of the Coyotes to put the visitors up 2-1.
Meanwhile, Raata continued to frustrate a strong attack by his former team through the later second and early third periods. Arizona seized control of the game late in the third when Clayton Keller stole a pass from Chris Kunitz in the Blackhawks’ zone and beat Crawford on a quick breakaway to make it 3-1.
Crawford was pulled for an extra attacker in the final minutes of the game and Hinostroza finished it off with an empty net goal to spoil the goalie’s long-awaited return.