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Corey Crawford takes another step forward in first home start since December

Crawford stoned Buffalo's Zach Bogosian several times late in overtime to help the Hawks get to the shootout Thursday. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Zach Bogosian outsmarted Corey Crawford in the second period Thursday, drawing the Hawks’ veteran goalie out of the crease and then tucking the puck around him and in at the near post, all while shorthanded.

But when Bogosian had another opportunity in the waning seconds of overtime, Crawford stood tall.

After blocking a Jack Eichel spin-o-rama, “Crow” held the goal line with his right pad in an impressive display of strength, keeping Bogosian’s repeated jam-in attempts at bay. His five saves in OT helped the Hawks get to a shootout and eventually earn two points in Crawford’s first home start since Dec. 16.

“I feel good — just trying to work hard,” he said. “I thought our D played really well, blocking shots and helping me out. I feel good out there, so just got to keep going.”

Crawford’s stat line in three games since returning from his two-month concussion-related absence isn’t the prettiest: 83 saves on 96 shots for an .865 save percentage, despite going 2-1 in those games.

Bogosian’s goal was his worst moment Thursday; letting a relatively unscreened Brandon Montour wrister from the high slot beat him glove high, without even much of a reaction, wasn’t great either. He also strangely forgot to tap his stick during the conclusion of one power play, though it didn’t lead to anything.

Yet Crawford also showed some improvement, even if it wasn’t of the showstopping variety.

He recorded a stellar 14-save first period, including back-to-back stops on Sam Reinhart at one point that required a quick blocker to save the initial attempt and then a rapid repositioning to fend off the rebound. He then stoned Reinhart again in the shootout, smoothly sliding left to right after reading the Sabres youngster the whole way in, to set up Alex DeBrincat’s winner moments later.

“He made some saves. We put him in a couple tough situations,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “You don’t want to give up four goals, but there were some pretty good looks in there too.”

With Cam Ward hurt and Collin Delia having allowed at least three goals in each of his past seven starts, the Hawks will likely look to ride Crawford as much as possible as they push to re-enter the West playoff race.

He’s certainly gotten his sea legs back at this point, playing 185 minutes in just over a week’s span since returning in Anaheim. The key now, as the Hawks turn towards a pair of crucial games in that playoff race (Saturday in Dallas and then Monday vs. Arizona), will be to rediscover the A-game form that carried him to a .946 save percentage in his first four games of the season, way back in October.

“We made a couple good plays, we didn’t get down after those three goals, had a lot of chances after that,” he said. “It was a good win for us. We don’t have many games left so we need the points right now, but I thought overall we played a good game.”