Two days later, it was as if the Golden Knights’ Max Pacioretty still was all up in Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford’s personal space.
Indeed, Crawford remained ticked off Saturday that goaltender interference wasn’t called on Alex Tuch’s third-period goal that came as Pacioretty was falling into Crawford and put the Hawks down 4-3 in a game they would lose by that same score.
“He barely got pushed [by Brandon Manning] and he didn’t make an effort to get out of there,” Crawford said. “And then he was stuck there, and then I couldn’t move the way I needed to to make a play on that. In a tight game like that? I don’t know. It’s frustrating. … You can’t just stand there and not get out of the way, you know what I mean?”
An earlier apparent goal by the Knights’ Oscar Lindberg had been challenged by Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton and overturned for goaltender interference. That kept the score deadlocked at 2-2.
“I thought [the second] one was more than the first one,” Crawford said. “The first one was close. The first one, I thought, maybe could’ve gone either way. Maybe it was a makeup call? I don’t know.”
It’s not easy to pinpoint a toughest loss of the season for a last-place team that has dropped 17 of its last 20 games, but the Vegas game stands out among all the others. The Hawks scored three straight goals to take a real, live lead — their first in a whopping 527:14 of regulation time over two miserable weeks — but the Knights tied it only 41 seconds later. And then, a mere 12 seconds after that, here came both Pacioretty and the puck.
Frustrating? And then some.
“I don’t know how to deal with that,” Crawford said. “Be [ticked] off? Let it go and keep playing? I really don’t know. It’s not a good position to be in, I think. It’s definitely frustrating. Last game, we felt like finally it was on our side and we played well enough to get one, and it just gets wiped out. That was pretty tough to take.
“Maybe our older guys, our core group, maybe we all need to play better to get us out of this. Maybe that’s the answer.”
Meanwhile, Crawford himself is fighting to keep negativity at bay. He hasn’t won a game since his sterling effort in a 3-1 decision over the Wild all the way back on Nov. 18. That has given way to an 0-7 stretch for Crawford during which he has allowed 30 goals and had an unbecoming save percentage of .868. His 13 defeats in all leads all NHL goalies.
“It’s hard when you’re letting in four goals, five goals a game,” he said. “I feel like I’m not doing my job. I need to be better for this team to win, and that’s all I’m going to look at is to try to give us a better chance.”
NOTES: Defenseman Connor Murphy, who had back surgery in September, was activated Saturday and will make his season debut Sunday against the Canadiens at the United Center. With whom will he be paired? Will he play the right side or the left? On this team, one rarely knows for sure. “I’d play forward, goalie or ‘D’ as long as I can get in the game,” he said. “So I’m excited.” … Gustav Forsling (shoulder) was put on injured reserve, retroactive to Dec. 5, clearing a spot for Murphy.