Hawks win 9th 1-goal game of young season
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If the Blackhawks have shown anything during their record streak, it's that they can win the close ones.
The Hawks' 1-0 victory over pesky Columbus at the United Center on Sunday night ran their record in 1-goal games to 9-0-3.
"It means a lot to play those tight games," said goalie Corey Crawford, who made 28 saves in his return from an upper body injury to post his second shutout of the season. "Everyone knows we have a big offense, but to be able to shut teams down when it's tight and we're up by 1 goal is good."
The win stretched the Hawks' NHL record of starting the season with at least 1 point to 18 games (15-0-3).
"Nothing is done yet and no one is satisfied in here," said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who cited desperation as being a key to the record in 1-goal games.
"When it comes down to those desperate plays at the end of games, you just want to win those battles," Hjalmarsson said. "So far this year we've been battling really good, especially in the third period when we're up a goal like today."
It was a game dominated by goalies Crawford and Steve Mason.
Mason allowed only Andrew Shaw's late second-period goal set up beautifully by Bryan Bickell, who peeked over his shoulder before sliding a sweet backhand pass to his linemate from behind the net.
"He saw me coming, but he wasn't sure, so I gave him a holler and he put it in a perfect area," Shaw said of his fourth goal of the season.
It was the second game in a row that a young guy scored the game-winning goal. Rookie Brandon Saad did it Friday against San Jose in a 2-1 win.
"It's nice when young guys like Shaw and Saad score winning goals because it takes pressure off the guys expected to score," Jonathan Toews said.
Shaw spoke of the veterans keeping the young guys grounded during the streak — and Toews is certainly one of them.
"We're excited about playing good hockey," Toews said. "I think the last game there to set that record was exciting for us, but we know it's nothing more than that. We've got a long ways to go and a lot of work left to do before we get to the playoffs and that's where we really have to perform.
"I think we're improving on all the little details of our game every single game. We don't take anyone for granted and we just make sure we're prepared for the job we have to do."
Crawford showed no rust in his first game back after missing the last four.
"He was good tonight, especially on those side to side plays," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He tracked the puck extremely well. It looked like he wasn't off for any time at all."
Mason made 26 saves.
"They're a great team," Mason said of the Hawks. "Right from their goaltending, both of them, defense, forwards, all the way through. They have guys that are superstars in this league and they are playing like it right now. For any team that comes in here, especially in this arena, it's a tough place to play and they're making it even harder."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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