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posted: 5/4/2013 12:37 AM

Crawford sharp as Blackhawks bust out

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And just like that, there is no goalie controversy.

Of course, if you ask the Blackhawks, there never was.

With Ray Emery sidelined by an injury, Corey Crawford had his second straight strong playoff game and the Hawks finally got a big contribution from Patrick Sharp as they dumped the Wild 5-2 at the UC to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

"I feel very confident. The thing is, I felt really confident last year,'' Crawford said with a smile. "A couple times during games, I just got a little sleepy, but I learned from that and I made sure I was strong coming into this season.''

Crawford was actually very good against Phoenix a year ago, but a couple soft overtime goals changed the perception of Crawford in some circles.

If Joel Quenneville wondered about it, he never showed it this season and never wavered. Quenneville did a masterful job in the short season of employing both goaltenders, but he never once said that Crawford would lose the net.

He challenged Crawford frequently and used Emery just enough to rest Crawford and keep him motivated, but despite Emery's terrific regular season, there wasn't a sense from Quenneville that he had intentions of benching his No. 1 goalie.

The truth is Quenneville knows the Hawks need Crawford at his very best in order to win the Stanley Cup, and while Emery had an outstanding season, his best game isn't at the level Crawford played at two years ago against Vancouver.

That's the Crawford the Hawks must have -- and so far they're getting him.

Crawford bailed out his teammates in Game 1 with a blocker save on Zach Parise from the slot in overtime less than a minute before Bryan Bickell's game-winner.

And his best sequence Friday night came in the middle of the second period in a 2-0 contest with Minnesota on the power play, when the Wild converged on a rebound and stormed the net.

Parise had four whacks at it from the left side on the doorstep, and Mikko Koivu knocked another one out of the air at Crawford. Parise then came around from behind the goal on the right side and took three more swipes at it.

So how many saves was that in about a 5-second span? It was at least six and perhaps as many as nine.

"I don't know the number,'' Crawford said. "I wasn't really thinking, just reacting. I was trying to cover the bottom of the ice and stay big in the net and strong to the post. There's no time to think.''

Some would say that's the best way for Crawford to play, but there's no denying how good he can be and what that means for the Hawks.

"We know we have a great goalie,'' Sharp said, "and it's a good feeling.''

Sharp finally had something to feel good about with a pair of goals in the third period, both huge, extending the Hawks lead in a one-goal game to 4-1.

"I've tried not to think about it,'' Sharp said of his frustration. "I've had a lot of success in this league scoring goals, but when that's not happening, I make sure I'm doing all the other things I can do to help the team.''

In the first period, Sharp saved a goal with a great defensive play and had a big hit, and he finished the game with 8 shots.

"You miss half the season with the lockout and then half the games with injuries,'' Sharp said. "You hit some posts and have some bad luck, but I'm now dwelling on it. You score a (dirty) goal and try to ride that.''

With second line back in business, the third and fourth lines contributing and Crawford sharp, the Hawks are riding high with a 2-0 series lead and chance to make it a short series.

Not a bad way to start the postseason.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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