Corey Crawford was all you need to be in the playoffs —good enough.
The Blackhawks goaltender overcame a shaky second period in which he allowed three goals on nine shots that allowed the Minnesota Wild to rally from a three-goal deficit and shut down the Wild the rest of the way in the Hawks’ 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series Friday night at the United Center.
After rookie Teuvo Teravainen gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead with an unlikely goal with 58 seconds left in the second period, Crawford stopped 8-of-8 shots in the third period, fending off two Wild power plays, to ensure the victory and a 1-0 lead in the period.
“This stuff’s happened before for us,” Crawford said. “We’ve been able to get through a lot of things. Them just coming back in a game — we were able to settle down and keep playing our game. No one was rattled in here. No one was worried. We just kept playing hard.”
Crawford wasn’t at his best, but a lot of his second-period problems were started by defensive inefficiencies.
“We didn’t help him in the second [period],” Hawks forward Marian Hossa said. “There were three goals right there in front of him. We have to protect the house better and he’ll be in better shape.”
Crawford has struggled this postseason. He was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period of the opener of the first-round series against the Nashville Predators and lost his starting job after allowing six goals in a 6-2 loss in Game 2.
But there were no alarm bells after the Wild scored three goals in an 8:09 span of the second period — Jason Zucker scoring off a one-timer in front of the net; Zach Parise scored on a power play after Crawford failed to corral a rebound; and Mikael Granlund pushed through a close-in shot to tie the game 3-3 at 9:30 of the period.
In fact, Crawford was incredulous that pulling him would even be considered on this night.
“Why would I get pulled?” he asked. “The game was tied, so … whatever.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he did not consider pulling Crawford after the three goals in the second period.
“Well, the game was tied and we called time out, slowed the game, got the momentum shifted a little bit,” Quenneville explained. “But the power-play goal got them going again. Pucks were going in on both ends at a rate we’re not accustomed to.”
Crawford stopped 30-of-33 shots and has a 3.81 goals-against average and .857 save percentage (72-of-84) in the playoffs. But the numbers don’t matter to him as much as the team’s 1-0 lead in the conference semifinals. The Hawks led 3-0 after 16 minutes, slumped in the second period and recovered to win.
“It’s important. That teams playing with a lot of confidence,” Crawford said. “We came out and had the start we wanted. Obviously the second was a tough one for us, but we were able to score late and get the lead and our third was pretty solid.”
The Hawks came to Crawford’s aid on two power plays in the third period after penalties to Johnny Oduya (holding) and Brad Richards (tripping). Crawford faced one shot on each, with Oduya blocking two shots on the second penalty kill.
“That’s what you need in the playoffs — big special teams and our guys came up big at the right time in the third period for some big kills there,” Crawford said. “Especially against the power play that’s been working pretty good over there. Our guys did a great job.”
Eventually, the Hawks figure to need Crawford to bail them out with a standout performance, as he has done in the past. It didn’t happen in the opener. But if Game 1 was any indication, it’s going to be a long series. The Hawks and Wild play Game 2 on Sunday night at the United Center.
“We’re just worried about this next one,” Crawford said. “That was hard-fought. They showed us how well they can play, especially in the second period. Next game is only going to get harder.”