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updated: 5/14/2014 5:14 AM

Blackhawks' Crawford stands tall again in clincher

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  • Teamamtes swarm Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, center, Tuesday to celebrate his game-winning goal off Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to beat the Wild 2-1 during overtime of Game 6 in St. Paul, Minn.

      Teamamtes swarm Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, center, Tuesday to celebrate his game-winning goal off Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to beat the Wild 2-1 during overtime of Game 6 in St. Paul, Minn.
    Associated Press

 
 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- From the very start of Tuesday night's all-important Game 6, the full house at the Xcel Energy Center was letting Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford have it.

Even when he didn't deserve it, like when the Hawks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a fluky goal by birthday boy Kris Versteeg, the chants of "Corey, Corey" still rained down from the 19,396 who packed the place.

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Maybe those wild, towel-waving Wild fans realized early -- or knew all along -- that it was Crawford who would prove the difference on this night and that trying to rattle him might be their best hope.

They were right, as Crawford stopped 34 of 35 shots he faced and Patrick Kane was the right man in the right place, netting his second game-winning overtime goal this postseason to lead the Hawks to a thrilling 2-1 victory over the never-say-die Wild.

"Give Crow a ton of credit for keeping us in the game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

"He made a lot of big saves all night long," defenseman Duncan Keith.

Just ask Minnesota's Justin Fontaine how good Crawford was Tuesday night. The young Minnesota forward was on the wrong end of a pair of outrageous sets of saves in the second period as the Wild turned up the heat big time on the Hawks.

But Crawford turned away 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the second and the third period and beyond -- and then midway through overtime, Kane wove his magic on one of the flukiest goals you'll see.

"It hit the stanchion, came around in front and I thought there was a chance it could get to me if it went through their defenseman," Kane said of his game-winner. "It was exciting to get that opportunity and that chance and whatever it is, if the luck finds me or the heavens above give me some blessings in overtime, I'll keep taking it.

"It's like Johnny (Toews) always finds a way to score game-winners. It's always exciting when you do it."

Luck? Maybe, but Keith said it was more than that.

"I think we got lucky on the bounce there, but we didn't get lucky with the way he scored it," Keith said. "That's a skilled player, and we were able to hang on to the puck in the neutral zone and make a good play to get it in deep."

Despite seeing it done so many times over the years -- Kane leads the franchise and shares the NHL lead among active skaters with 4 career postseason overtime game-winners -- Quenneville still had to shake his head a bit about his young star's ability on the biggest stages.

"He's a special player," Quenneville said. "Guys have that instinct, that knack of finding pucks, wanting to be out there, wanting to score. He does his thing."

And probably no one in the arena was happier about Kane's heroics than Crawford.

"It was a pretty exciting feeling when that one went in," Crawford admitted. "A little relieved to get this one over."

With the victory, the Hawks now head to the Conference finals for the fourth time since 2009. They will face either Anaheim or Los Angeles.

"It's clearly a great group of guys," Toews said. We want to play for each other. We want to win. That's all that matters really. It's a lot of fun when we work as hard as we can. It's a good feeling right now. We have to keep that feeling going."

As high as the Hawks were after finally getting out of Minnesota with a 'W,' that's how crushed the Wild were in a series they thought was in their grasp.

"It's tough," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We really believed we were capable of doing more than just winning this game tonight.

"Our guys laid it on the line. This is a special group, I'm very proud of them."

And Quenneville is just as proud of his team's desire.

"We should be excited about what we've achieved," he said. "Enjoy the break knowing we have a very tough opponent coming up."

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