Corey Crawford shines again as Hawks continue dominance over Pens

PITTSBURGH — Corey Crawford didn’t come racing out of his crease to scream at an official, or frantically wave his arms to the bench to get their attention. He barely reacted at all. The Penguins were celebrating the equalizer at 11:33 of the third period, but Crawford was 100 percent sure the goal wouldn’t stand.

Even with the often arbitrary application of the goaltender-interference rule, Olli Maatta’s leg sweep along the crease was pretty blatant.

“There was no way,” Crawford said. “I don’t think anyone was too worried about that.”

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Evgeni Malkin loses control of the puck as he collides with Artem Anisimov during the first period on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Crawford was just as calm after he was run over by Evgeni Malkin and had to leave the game for two minutes in the second period. And he was just as calm as he flung out his right pad to rob Phil Kessel (with a little help from a diving Brent Seabrook) with 17.4 seconds left in the game.

Just another ho-hum evening for the Hawks’ indisputable best player this season, who made 35 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Penguins.

“I liked the response out there,” Joel Quenneville said. “I know he had his bell rung a little bit there. And they had some great looks at the end. Key save with [17] seconds there.”

Red-hot Artem Anisimov scored the game-winner with a power-play goal 21 seconds after the Penguins had tied it shorthanded earlier in the third period. It was the Hawks’ eighth straight win over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Pittsburgh had been 6-0-1 at home this season.

The result was the same, but it was quite a contrast from the last time these two teams faced each other — a 10-1 laugher in the Hawks’ season-opener. And yes, the Penguins remembered.

“It should motivate us,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said before the game. “Anytime you have a game like that, and you play that team again, you want to make sure you bounce back, you respond the right way.”

But the Penguins seem to bring out the best in the Hawks, who came out the aggressors, looking fast and slippery in an impressive first period. The Hawks had 10 scoring chances to the Penguins’ two, but led just 1-0 on Gustav Forsling’s power-play goal. Then came the big scare, when Malkin’s thigh collided with Crawford’s head as he lunged to freeze the puck to the side of his crease. After a lengthy discussion with head athletic trainer Mike Gapski, Crawford was brought back to the dressing room for further evaluation. He returned a little more than two minutes later, however, with Anton Forsberg not facing a shot in the interim.

The game stayed 1-0 until Matt Hunwick’s backhander slipped between Crawford’s legs for a shorthanded goal at 8:00 of the third period. But just 21 seconds later, on the same power play, Anisimov reached behind the net for the puck, made a nifty move to his forehand and stuffed it behind Murray for a 2-1 lead. It was Anisimov’s fourth goal in the last two games.

“It felt big, coming back right away,” Anisimov said. “We still had a power play and we just needed to score, and we did. What’s happened has happened. We just need to forget [the shorty], learn from the mistakes and go forward.”

The Hawks now have five power-play goals in their last three games, one of many encouraging signs as they shake off a prolonged slump. The penalty kill was perfect for the eighth time in nine games. The puck-management was better, the passing was crisper, and the traffic in front of the net was more noticeable. And most importantly, they’ve now won three of four to right the ship.

“We kept playing hard,” Crawford said. “It’s a tough team to play against — a lot of speed and a lot of skill. It was a good road win for us.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus
Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com