UNIONDALE, N.Y – In his first appearance since December 8, Corey Crawford gave the Blackhawks every opportunity to win.
After allowing two goals, the 29-year-old Chicago netminder stopped shot after shot the Islanders threw at him. The Islanders eventually found the game-winning goal 58 seconds into overtime Thursday night, but Crawford did just about everything he could to keep the Isles at bay.
“The positive out of the game was Corey’s play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought he got us a point and made some real key stops, particularly late in the game. He had some good looks in the first two periods, but the third it was Corey that really saved us.”
Some of the saves Quenneville was referencing included Crawford turning aside a breakaway chance by Islander rookie Brock Nelson and a shot from point blank range off the stick of Kyle Okposo.
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Crawford made 31 saves in his first game back and said he felt “pretty good” during his first start.
“The energy was there,” he told reporters. “I was seeing the puck pretty well. I think I gave some rebounds that I usually I take care of. I felt pretty good out there.”
During the third period Crawford said he was seeing the puck well. In game's final period he faced and stopped all 13 shots he saw.
“I had an eye on the puck and I was reading the plays pretty good,” Crawford said. “And the times where I didn’t get a good read on it I was able to just stretch out or react to it.”
Crawford has missed nearly a month of action after being sidelined with a groin injury. The Chicago goaltender left the game against the Florida Panthers after sustaining the injury with 6:15 left in the first period.
Prior to Thursday’s rendezvous with the Islanders, Quenneville said he was just happy to have Crawford back. After the game, it appeared Jonathan Toews was as well.
“He played huge, especially late in the game,” Toews said. “We gave up way too many high quality chances, where he had to make some sparling saves to keep the puck out… Late in the game Crawford really kept us in it.”
Crawford did play well early on, but he admitted as the game progressed he got more and more comfortable.
“Definitely, definitely,” he responded when asked about it. “I felt better and better as the game went on, but I was seeing the puck pretty well the whole night.”
The Blackhawks will definitely benefit from having Crawford back on the ice. The team will wrap-up a quick New York area swing Friday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.