GLENDALE, Ariz. – In a perfect world, a pair of early goals would have been all he needed to get the job done. But in a contest featuring a pair of teams fighting for Wild Card spots on the playoffs, aggressive offensive attacks made that very difficult.
Corey Crawford faced quite a few shots in the Blackhawks’ first game after their All-Star break against the Coyotes on Saturday night at Gila River Arena, and stood up to almost all of them. But his counterpart, former teammate Antti Raanta, was also equal to a strong offense from his former team, forcing 65 minutes of hockey then another extra session.
But like he was most of the game, Crawford stood up to the Arizona attack, stopping both shots he faced in the shootout. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane converted on their chances to give the Blackhawks the 3-2 victory and the very important two points that come with them.
Crawford’s 40 saves along with two goals from Brandon Saad helped the Blackhawks get their 55th and 56th points of the season, putting them three behind the Coyotes for that last playoff spot with 30 games to go.
Most encouraging for that race to the end has been the play of the goalie over his past three starts, which may help to pull him out lengthy rough stretch. In 11 starts from late November through January 9th, Crawford lost nine games and allowed four or more goals in five of those contests. But he’s pulled out in his two starts prior to Saturday, allowing just three total goals in wins over the Canadiens and Maple Leafs in a pair of Blackhawks’ wins.
Against the Coyotes, he got spotted a two-goal lead thanks to a first and second period goal from Saad, who now has four scores in his last four games.
Arizona would get on the board after the second one of those goals to even the game, but Crawford held strong over the course of the third period then in overtime. In that five-minute period, he stopped four shots on goal then saved a pair of shootout chances from Nick Schmaltz and Garland. Toews and Kane scored on their attempts to give the Blackhawks a victory, earning two needed points behind a goalie who’s finding his touch again.