MONTREAL — It was just like old times for the Blackhawks on Saturday night, with a crowd of reporters around Corey Crawford and a teammate playfully mocking all the attention he was getting for another virtuoso performance.
“What a stud. What a stud,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said as he walked out of the Blackhawks’ locker room after Crawford’s magnificent 48-save shutout in a 2-0 victory over the Montreal -Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Crawford chuckled sheepishly and continued his low-key response to another question about just how great he was. Even with five consecutive victories, the Hawks might still be long shots to make the playoffs. But Crawford’s excellence -provided yet another reminder that when he’s healthy and on his game, anything is possible.
“He was unbelievable,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “How many point-blank chances did we give up? He’s just throwing any limb he can at the puck and coming up with saves. He’s so aware of pucks through traffic. A big push by them in the third — they’re just as desperate as we are for points right now — and … Crow just the door. He had every answer for them.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy and red-hot forward Brendan Perlini scored the goals (Perlini’s eighth in seven games) as the Hawks (32-30-9, 73 points) continued to boost their playoff hopes. They moved to within five points of the Coyotes (78 points) for the second wild-card spot — with Wild (76 points) also ahead of them. The Hawks have a game in hand on both the Coyotes and Wild.
Crawford’s excellence against the Canadiens was no surprise. He’s played with a laser focus against his hometown team throughout his career and particular in Montreal. Crawford is 5-0-2 in his career against the Canadiens at Bell Centre, with a .971 save percentage and 1.14 goals-against average.
“He was excellent. That’s what he can do,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “And obviously in Montreal, he’s pretty comfortable here. He’s had a lot of success here. He had a lot of confidence. He gives the team a lot of confidence that he’s going to come through for us.”
Crawford typically was humble about his performance.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “That’s just a big win for us against at team that’s close to being in the playoffs. They need points, too. And we just picked up our game.
“Even [with] the amount of shots, I thought we kept them to the outside for the most part.”
Crawford gave the Hawks -everything they needed. When the Canadiens came out strong after a pregame ceremony to honor goalie Carey Price’s franchise-record 315 victories, Crawford stopped eight shots in the first seven minutes. He got stronger from there.
He was never better than on a point-blank shot from close range by Artturi Lehkonen, when -Crawford made a spectacular glove save.
“I gave up a bad rebound to [Victor Mete],” Crawford said. “It was more just [that] I was covering the short side and then once I kind of read he was going far, I just threw my glove and pad up there and it went right in my glove.”
Both Hawks goals were scored off nifty passing. Strome timed his pass to Murphy for a wrist shot from the slot that beat Price. Perlini’s goal was a classic tic-tac-toe — Slater Koekkoek-to-Alex DeBrincat to Perlini for a snipe that made it 2-0.
And Crawford made it stand up.
“We played really well,” he said. “Even though they were coming with pressure at the end, we didn’t panic. We kept things to the outside and waited for pucks to come into the middle and break it out.. That was great by us to not lose our cool at the end there.”