Corey Crawford took the Minnesota Wild’s best shot Sunday. And nearly paid a hefty price.
Crawford was stunned, shaken and even a bit wobbly after Marco Scandella’s 50-foot blast hit him squarely in the face mask in the third period of the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory Sunday night at the United Center. But he shoot it off, replaced the dented mask, stayed in the game and showed no ill-effects afterwards.
“I’m fine,” Crawford said. “I didn’t pick it up right away. That was kind of a bomb from almost the corner. I saw it at the last second and kind of turned my head and lost my balance a little bit.”
The shot to the mask was one of 30 saves Crawford made as the Hawks took a 2-0 lead in their second-round series. For the second consecutive game, Crawford was at his best when the Hawks needed him best.
Moments after Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the second period, the Wild put the heat on. But Crawford stopped Kyle Brodziak’s backhand-to-forehand attempt on a breakaway — eliciting chants of “Cor-ey, Cor-ey” from the home crowd.
“I kind of got stuck on one side of the net,” Crawford siad. “I felt like he was going to maybe shoot it and he hung on to it and tried to [shoot from] the far side. I just stuck my leg out there.”
A minute later, Crawford blocked Zach Parise twice from close range with his leg pad — “a quick, bang-bang play,” Crawford said. —to preserve the 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, Patrick Kane took a stretch pass from Duncan Keith and fired a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk with 19.9 seconds left in the second period to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
“That could have been the turning point,” Keith said of Crawford’s lead-protecting saves. “It keeps it 1-0. Keeps us in the lead. I thought maybe it even gave us some momentum to get going. Those are the types of saves you need … and we’ve seen out of Crow for awhile now.”
“I kind of got stuck on one side of the net,” Crawford said of the save against Brodziak on the breakaway. “
Though Patrick Sharp and Kane scored third-period goals as the Hawks coasted to victory, Crawford’s key saves were instrumental.
“Lot of talk about the goals we scored and defensive plays leading to those guys scoring goals,” Sharp said, “but Crow made some huge saves to keep us tied in the beginning and keep it 1-0 for us. That’s big. The building gets into it. They start chanting his name —that energy feeds into our lineup and we play better from there.”
The Hawks offense and defense took a lot of heat off Crawford, who wasn’t tested severely outside of those key moments.
“We didn’t give up too much tonight,” Crawford said. “It was pretty much those two [Brodziak and Parise] and a couple of other tips or screens from the point. But other than that, we were pretty solid.”
And, most importantly, Crawford was still standing at the end.
“He was fine [after Scandella’s shot], and he’s fine [afterwards],” coach Joel Quenneville said.