2 in 21 gives 'excellent' Crawford win in return

619366.png

2 in 21 gives 'excellent' Crawford win in return

Corey Crawford waited. And waited. And waited.

The Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender just wanted to get back into the net, wanted to get back to playing the way he did at the end of last season and the beginning of this one.

On Wednesday, he did.

Crawford stopped 20 of 21 shots, some in strong fashion, and the Blackhawks scored two goals within 21 seconds of each other in their 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Blackhawks went into the break the way they hoped, with a stronger showing than in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and with the most points in the NHL (48).

And Crawford got his desired result, too. The Blackhawks No. 1 netminder struggled in November, and backup Ray Emerys hot streak meant Crawford had to bide his time to play again. It was a long wait, and Crawford was glad it was over.

I was pretty hungry to get back in there, Crawford said. I was trying to get into it early, just to get some feeling back. Its not the same as working hard in practice. Youve still got to get some time in the game.

Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp scored those two quick goals for the Blackhawks. Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell added third-period goals.

Crawford was officially back midway through the second period, when he got a stick on Max Paciorettys shot, which seemed destined for the back of the empty net.

I thought it was a goal, I thought (Pacioretty) was celebrating, but Crawford made a great stop, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. When things like that happen, it gives you momentum.

The Blackhawks, down 1-0 at that point, turned that momentum into offense. About a minute later Brunettes shot bounced off Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and past goaltender Peter Budaj to tie it. Then Sharp added his game-winner 21 seconds later.

Teammates were understandably happy for Crawford.

Hes used to playing a lot so not easy for goaltenders to watch a lot of hockey and then go in there and try and play with confidence, Toews said. Its great to see him get the win and we definitely wanted to help him out there.

The Blackhawks enter their long break with the victory they wanted. Crawford came out of his long break with the victory he needed.

It was an excellent game for him and us, coach Joel Quenneville said. He looked sharp, looked quick and was big in the net as well. It was good to see him come back the way he did. I commend him throughout that process how mentally he was focused and prepared. He did a great job.

Briefly

Sharps baby girl, Madelyn Grace, was at her first Blackhawks game on Wednesday night. Sharp said her first game I get a goal. Hopefully shes up late and sleeps all through the night.

Quenneville was happy with the game of Brandon Pirri, who was called up Wednesday morning. I thought he did a great job. He was smart, made some good plays and had more speed than I previously saw.

Marian Hossa assisted on Sharps goal to extend his point streak to seven games.

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year. 

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Nick Schmaltz will be joining Blackhawks teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk on Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Thursday.

It will be his first career appearance on the U.S. men's national team and third time representing his country in world-championship play, most recently winning a bronze medal at the 2016 World Juniors. He scored two goals and added six assists in seven games during that tournament.

Schmaltz just completed his first professional season with the Blackhawks, where he tallied six goals and 22 assists in 61 games. 

After the year ended, he spoke about the possibility of playing for USA in this tournament and what it would mean to him.

"I think it's a great tournament," Schmaltz said. "You get to play with a lot of great players. Look like a lot of great players are going to the tournament, so it's definitely a big stage. It would be a fun tournament."

The roster now includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Among the other NHLers going for the Americans: Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy, Brock Nelson and Jacob Trouba.

Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russia) will also compete in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.