The Chicago Blackhawks special teams did their job, on both sides of the puck. And an injury to Corey Crawford, which looked very bad at first, might not be that after all.
Patrick Sharp scored one of the team’s three power-play goals, and Antti Raanta stopped 29-of-31 in place of an injured Crawford as the Blackhawks beat the Florida Panthers, 6-2, at the United Center on Sunday night. The victory snapped a three-game winless streak for the Blackhawks, who got great things out of their power play and penalty kill.
But the main concern was for Crawford, who was injured with just more than six minutes remaining in the first period. He struggled to move laterally after a right-pad save on Marcel Goc’s shot, and play was halted. Crawford, with the help of a trainer, headed to the locker room. As bad as Crawford’s injury looked originally, coach Joel Quenneville sounded optimistic about the goaltender.
“I haven’t talked to the docs yet, but I don’t think it’s too serious,” he said. “But when it’s a goalie, it’s a little more serious than other players because of how important he is to the team. We’ll have a better assessment tomorrow, but we’re thinking along those lines (of prognosis).”
The goaltending situation almost got really interesting, as Raanta took a hit to the head late in the third period. But Raanta shook it off and continued.
“I knew it was not so bad, even though my head was a little hurt,” he said. “I knew I had to play to the end. I didn’t even want to act like I was hurt. I had a good talk with (Blackhawks head trainer) Mike Gapski on the ice.”
Still, it had the Blackhawks wondering who would suit up at goaltender in just such an emergency.
“I asked (assistant coach Jamie Kompon) who was going to go, I think (Andrew Shaw) volunteered. If Antti couldn’t finish, that would’ve been a sight to see,” said Sharp, who also had two assists on the night. “(Shaw) keeps getting hit with pucks, so might as well put him in our net.”
Shaw, indeed, got hit with another puck, for a power-play goal in the third period. Patrick Kane had three assists and is currently on a five-game point streak. Brent Seabrook had a power-play goal and assist, and Marian Hossa also had a goal and an assist.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks cleaned things up on their penalty kill, scored seemingly at will on their power play and got a great relief performance from Raanta, who go the decision.
“Of course, it’s not a nice thing to see a teammate down,” he said. “I just tried to get my mind on the game and focus on the right things. I had a couple saves late in the first to get my mind in the game.”
The Blackhawks did the rest. After three games’ worth of frustration, mistakes and a bad penalty kill, the Blackhawks were improved in all areas on Sunday. The penalty kill’s performance was most welcomed, as they nullified all five of the Panthers’ power plays.
“Good night. It was a good night,” Quenneville said about the kill. “We’re almost to the point where we can talk about the positives about it. Hopefully we can start trending in the right direction.”
The Blackhawks got plenty of offense, but they were as happy about the special-teams goals they kept out of their net as they were about the ones they put in their opponent’s. Quenneville said the penalty kill could go nowhere but up after Friday. It went up on Sunday.
“Six different goal-scorers tonight, every line contributing and we had jump from the start,” Sharp said. “It’s nice to rebound with a win after a couple tough losses. Hopefully we can build off this.”