Without Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks hold off Avalanche

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DENVER —When the Blackhawks are at their best, cycling the puck in the offensive zone and basically playing keep-away from the opponent, Corey Crawford gets a little antsy in net. He saw just six shots in the first period Tuesday night against Colorado, and a scant two in the second.

And while that’s the Hawks’ primary objective, Crawford prefers to be a little more involved. He got his wish in the third, and came up huge in a 2-1 victory. Crawford made 16 of his 23 stops in the third period, including a wild 37-second flurry that saw seven Avalanche shots, and a few more big ones in the frantic final moments.

“You don’t really see that too often,” Crawford said of the wild shot differential by period.

But other than the few flurries the Avalanche had in the third, it was a dominating effort by the Hawks, who looked re-energized after the All-Star break, which they limped into with three straight road losses. That they did it without Jonathan Toews — suspended for the game for pulling out of the All-Star game —was a bonus.

“You could tell everybody was excited, even though it’s kind of a tough building to play in your first game back, in the Mile High City,” Duncan Keith said. “I thought it was a really good team effort from top to bottom. A good road win.”

Richard Panik, who worked his way out of Joel Quenneville’s doghouse with a very good game, scored just 2:57 into the first period, as Andrew Shaw nudged a Viktor Svedberg rebound to the front of the goalmouth, where Panik finished off his third goal in his last six games. Less than five minutes later, Artemi Panarin made it 2-0, taking a sneaky behind-the-back, off-the-boards bank pass from Patrick Kane and sweeping a backhand past Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard for his 18th goal of the season, tops among rookies.

“We’ve played already half of the season,” Panarin said through an interpreter. “I know when he’ll give me the pass.”

Colorado made it 2-1 when Gabriel Landeskog rifled a shot past Crawford midway through the first, but the Hawks stifled the Avalanche for the rest of the first and second periods. The inevitable pushback came quickly in the third, but Crawford matched Calvin Pickard (40 saves) big save for big save down the stretch. Pickard snared a Panarin breakaway, and Crawford denied Matt Duchene and Landeskog in the final few minutes to seal the win.

“I liked our team game,” Quenneville said. “Kind of comparable to that [12-game win streak] we had in January. The last three on the road were tough to watch, but [it was a] great response tonight.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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