ANAHEIM, Calif. — In overtime, Marcus Kruger was in the right place at the right time. But Corey Crawford was in the right place every time.
Crawford stopped 60-of-62 shots, including all 37 shots he faced after the second period as the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks on Kruger’s goal 16:12 into the third overtime Tuesday night at the Honda Center.
“He was outstanding. Our best player tonight,” Hawks forward Andrew Shaw said. “We needed that from him. He stood on his head. He won us that game.”
Crawford originally was awarded the “championship belt” that honors the player of the game. But he in turn handed it to Kruger, who scored the winning goal.
“He could have kept it,” Kruger said. “He deserves it. He was great tonight. He gave us a chance. We’re happy to have him.”
Crawford was in a familiar position coming into Game 2 after being outplayed by Frederik Andersen in Game 1, which the Ducks won 4-1. Andersen was outstanding again in Game 2 — he stopped 53-of-56 shots and allowed only two power-play goals prior to Kruger’s game winner. But Crawford has a knack for coming up big in games like this. He has won five of his last six overtime games. This was his first overtime game since losing Game 7 against the Kings in last year’s Western Conference final — a devastating defeat on a fluky goal that bounced off defenseman Nick Leddy’s shoulder and into the net.
The 166-minute, 12-second marathon was the longest game in Blackhawks history.
“It felt like it,” Crawford said. “We played hard throughout the whole thing and we had some chances. They had some too that went off the post. Both sides were so close. That was just a great hockey game to watch, I think.”
Overall, this was Crawford’s 22nd overtime game. He is 13-9 overall (though he has won 11 of his last 15). And he is 4-1 in multiple-overtime games, including a 4-3 victory in triple-overtime in Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins. The experience makes a difference.
“Yeah, maybe I stayed a little more calm. Maybe less nerves, too, when you’ve been through it before,” Crawford said.
“As the game goes on, you’re able to stay with it pretty good. The ice was getting a little chippy at the end there. It seemed like every time a chance came, everyone was on their toes, hopin’ for it.
“That was a weird play to finish. It went to Seabs [Brent Seabrook] and he kind of just one-timed it. As soon as it hit the ice, his stick hit it and then, I don’t even know where it hit Kruger, but it’s definitely nice to see the red light go on.”
Crawford has a history of being as good as he needs to be. He allowed nine goals on 47 shots in his first two games of the playoffs against Nashville — losing his starting job to backup Scott Darling. But he regained it after winning in relief of Darling in the Game 6 clincher against the Predators and has been solid ever since.
Crawford had a 6.75 goals-against average and an .809 save percentage in his first two playoff games. After winning Game 2 against the Ducks, he has a 1.55 GAA and .948 save percentage in his last seven games.
“I thought he battled. He was outstanding,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Quick. Alert. Handled the puck. Rebound control. Challenged. He made a couple of gigantic saves.”
And as usually is the case when Crawford gets on a roll, he was better when the threat was greater, making several key stops in overtime that could have meant disaster for the Hawks. This was his best game of the playoffs.
“Hands down,” forward Bryan Bickell said. “Sixty-two shots — that’s unbelievable. Six periods to keep us in the game. [Corey] Perry coming down the slot and chances like that — making big saves. That’s what we expect out of him. We’re happy to see it.”