Corey Crawford sharp in return as Blackhawks win 4-3 on Patrick Kane’s late goal
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — It wasn’t perfect, but Corey Crawford was mostly sharp in his first game back for the Blackhawks.
He made big saves throughout the night Wednesday, including two big ones in the final minutes, to keep them in it long enough to beat the Ducks 4-3 on Patrick Kane’s goal with 16.1 seconds left in regulation.
Crawford stopped the first 10 shots he faced and saved 29 of 32 overall in his return from more than two months of being sidelined by a concussion.
“I made some big saves and also I made some big mistakes,” he said. “I think after missing a lot of time, it’s those little things that will come back the more I play. I definitely have to sharpen some things up, but it was good to get a win.”
It was an ugly game for the Hawks at Honda Center, but Crawford, Kane and Alex DeBrincat did enough to help them escape with an important victory and keep their wild-card dreams alive.
DeBrincat scored their first goal on a power play early in the second period and tied it 3-3 with five minutes remaining in the third. He has 36 on the season, trailing only Kane’s 40 among the Hawks.
The win pulled them within five points of the Avalanche for the second wild-card spot. Colorado jumped the Stars by beating Vancouver in a shootout Wednesday.
“Didn’t think we were very good, but we found a way,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We made some plays to get back in it there. We’ll take it.”
They took a hit, however, with the loss of first-line winger Drake Caggiula. Ducks forward Rickard Rakell plowed him headfirst into the glass in the second period, causing Caggiula to suffer a concussion. Colliton didn’t have any word on his condition immediately after the game, and it is unknown how long he’ll be out.
Rakell was hit with a five-minute major penalty and ejected.
“I didn’t like the hit,” Colliton said.
Aside from the Hawks’ overall sloppiness, Crawford’s return seemed to energize them. Their defense, usually one of the shakiest in the NHL, kept the Ducks from launching a shot on goal until eight minutes into the game.
Crawford passed his first test with ease. Ducks winger Carter Rowney fired one from just outside the crease, and Crawford knocked away. Rowney rebounded the puck and fed Nick Ritchie skating in on Crawford’s right, and Crawford instantly turned for the save.
He stared down a two-on-one in the second period in which Jakob Silfverberg rifled one glove-side and swiped it out of the air with a flourish.
Crawford had one major lapse, but it was a killer. He tried to play a puck behind the goal early in the third period, and Derek Grant stripped him and kicked it out Troy Terry who scored easily on the empty net as Crawford lunged for it.
“That one was a bad mistake,” he said.
Nonetheless, it was an encouraging first step. Crawford should get another chance this weekend, either Saturday at the Kings or Sunday at the Sharks. Colliton declined to give a sketch of the plan for Crawford, but he will almost certainly split the back-to-back between him and Cam Ward.
Colliton didn’t sense any jitters from Crawford leading up to the game. Goalie coach Jimmy Waite told Crawford on Tuesday he was getting the start, and there wasn’t much reaction.
‘‘Probably had the same look on his face as he usually does,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘Just no big deal, ready to go.’’
But there’s no doubt the win was meaningful for Crawford. No matter what anyone else thought about whether he should keep playing after a second concussion, he was determined to make it back.
He spent the first month-plus of his recovery training on his own until he returned to partial practice three weeks ago. He didn’t start traveling with the Hawks until their game last week.
“It’s pretty frustrating to watch games when you’re not playing,” Crawford said. “You want to get back as quick as possible, but I’ve gotta be smart, too. Now I’m feeling good, back to normal, so I’m just gonna roll with it now.”