Corey Crawford posts second straight shutout as Blackhawks top Wild

SHARE Corey Crawford posts second straight shutout as Blackhawks top Wild
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Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu and Patrick Sharp fight for a loose puck in the first period Saturday night. (AP Photo)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford saw the puck hit the goalpost to his right, and then it was anybody’s guess where the thing was.

“Sweep and hope for the best,” he shrugged.

Turns out Nino Niederreiter’s chip shot was lying harmlessly in the crease underneath Crawford, where nobody could see it. Crawford blindly swept his left leg across the blue paint and somehow managed to nudge the puck safely to the side of the net — much to the surprise of Niederreiter (who was already celebrating), to the fans (who were jumping out of their seats) and to the person who operates the goal horn (who was already blaring it).

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“Off the post … normally it goes off the goalie’s ass and in,” Niederreiter told the Wild radio broadcast at the first intermission. “I couldn’t believe it didn’t go in.”

The way Crawford’s playing right now, nothing’s going in. And that’s exactly what the punchless Hawks need.

Crawford posted his second consecutive shutout, making 24 saves in a 2-0 victory Saturday night, keeping the Wild off the board until Artem Anisimov’s power-play goal with 5:42 left in the game gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

For the second straight game, Crawford was really good. And the Hawks, well, they were good enough.

“We’d still like more production, but at the same time, the better you check, the more offense you get off it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still don’t think we generated enough offense, but we didn’t mind the way we played without [the puck]. Some nights, they go in.”

They haven’t gone in much for the Hawks, who have scored three goals or fewer in 11 of 12 games since their 15-goal eruption in the first two games of the season. Anisimov had a power-play goal for the second straight game — a perfect tip of a Duncan Keith shot from the point — but the Hawks still frequently looked dreadful with the man advantage, unable to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Alex DeBrincat’s empty-netter — his second in as many games — was the only other goal. Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (33 saves) had plenty to do with that. But before the game, Jonathan Toews talked about how the Hawks were “a little snake-bitten with the puck,” how it wasn’t bouncing their way. Saturday was more of the same. Ryan Hartman chipped a backhand redirect of a Lance Bouma pass just wide two minutes into the game. DeBrincat hit the post off a Richard Panik cross-crease pass early in the second.

Crawford, who has stopped the last 59 shots he has faced, rendered it all moot. He was particularly impressive in the third period, stopping back-to-back breakaways by Eric Staal and Jared Spurgeon and playing hyper-aggressively to stem other Wild chances — practically chasing Minnesota forwards around the goalmouth before kicking aside shots.

“He’s just finding the puck, battling like crazy on every shot, and the second shot, as well,” Quenne-ville said. “He’s been great. It’s been fun watching him.”

Crawford admitted that taut, low-scoring goaltending duels like this one are indeed “fun” in their own way, especially when they come against a well-known rival in front of a hot crowd. But surely he would prefer an easy 5-0 victory somewhere along the line. And maybe if the Hawks continue improving in front of him — the last two games have hardly been perfect, but they’ve certainly been better in terms of puck possession and team defense — he’ll get a couple of those.

But for now, he’s doing all the heavy lifting.

“He makes big saves [at] key times,” Anisimov said. “We just need to help him out.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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