Crawford puts on a show as Hawks stay hot

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Crawford puts on a show as Hawks stay hot

DENVER -- Every team benefits from a good give and take. And after Corey Crawford gave the Blackhawks the early bail-out, his teammates took control with a stellar third period.

Patrick Sharp scored the go-ahead goal about halfway through the third period and Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots in the Blackhawks 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. The Blackhawks collected four points on this two-game road trip and also ended the Avs' five-game winning streak.

But it wasn't looking that way early, when the Avalanche were controlling the tempo and spending tons of time in the Blackhawks' zone. Crawford stood up to the barrage, stopping the Avs on all 13 first-period shots they had.

Even the one goal he did give up, a Ryan O'Byrne tally in the second period, was an odd one that went off O'Byrne's body and past Crawford.

"We weathered that storm with him holding the fort. It was very sloppy. We were in their end the first 10 minutes," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He was strong all game long. His position was so good."

Crawford said he's felt strong to start every game this season, including Thursday.

"I'm able to feel like that right at the start of the game and that's important to have a good feeling right off the top of the bat," he said.

Marian Hossa scored an empty-net, short-handed goal to secure the game. Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was as strong as Crawford, stopping 27 of 29, some in grand fashion.

Once the Blackhawks got past their early sluggishness -- and the relentless attack from the Avalanche -- they started to find their groove. They were once again getting contributions across the board, including their top line. Jonathan Toews scored his third of the season off a Daniel Carcillo feed to give the Blackhawks an early lead.

"We know we just have to keep working hard. Even tonight we could've had two or three more," Toews said. "It's a good sign when you're around the net. You know where two linemates are, you're not letting the other team kill your plays too quickly, and you're going to eventually get scoring chances."

Sharp's goal came from the left point, a typically successful place for him. Sharp, who got the rebound off Andrew Brunette's shot that Varlamov fought off, nearly passed the puck off.

"I knew (Varlamov) was maybe not down and out but recovering. He made a big save on Bruno and I wanted to pass to (Duncan Keith) but I thought maybe a quick shot would sneak past him or create a rebound or something," he said.

The Blackhawks are finding early season success because they're not just relying on one person. Yes, Crawford probably had to do too much early again, but the help eventually came. Be it the forward lines or defensive pairings, the Blackhawks are feeling good in their setup.

"We've had different lines contributing every night and that's just what we need," Toews said. "We had a great little two-game road trip. We want to win a lot early and put ourselves in good position."

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks knew their meeting against the Minnesota Wild two weeks ago was a critical contest. This one is right up there, too.

The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace with the front-running Wild, who are seven points ahead of them entering tonight's game.

"There's certainly always something to play for," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks are 10 points ahead of third-place St. Louis. "We want to keep getting better and we're starting to improve over this part of the season. But the point of importance of today's game and keeping it close is important for us, so we'll approach it that way. We were going into the break a week ago, and I'm sure it's an important game for them but it's an extremely important game for us."

Meanwhile the Wild will be trying to do tonight what the Blackhawks did on Feb. 11: go into their bye on a high note. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Devan Dubnyk will get the start as the Wild look to keep extending their lead.

"It's one of those games that's a great challenge for your group," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You're playing a team that's still won three Stanley Cups in the last seven years and they've been in every battle you can imagine. That team gets up for every important game, and I think they'll think this is an important game. It's just about being an athlete. It's one of those things, you love to play in these situations."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Tuesday marks the Wild's 59th game of the season; they had caught up to Chicago during the Blackhawks' bye week, yet will go into their break with a game in hand. Still, the Wild are ready for the respite.

"We're not complaining about it," Charlie Coyle said. "It's a little different, yeah, but in the long run it's going to help us. Just get this rest period, rest the legs, the body, [rest] mentally, come back and get ready for the grind. It's going to be crucial for us and we'll try to take advantage of it."

Matt Dumba (knee) could return to the Wild's lineup tonight but Boudreau wouldn't say for sure.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com and NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks

Forward lines
Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

Injuries/illnesses: None

Minnesota Wild

Forward lines
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Jordan Schroeder

Defensive Pairs
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Gustav Olofsson-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba

Goaltender
Devan Dubnyk

Injuries/illnesses: None

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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