Rozner: Crawford steals another one for Blackhawks

There's no points for pretty.

There's no valor in style.

And they don't give out wins in the postseason for margin of victory.

Good thing, because the Blackhawks are tied at 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Final and they haven't been the harder-working team for more than a period or two since this series began.

The home team collected a 2-1 victory Wednesday night at the UC, and the best news is that they probably know they haven't played a 60-minute game since Tampa became the opponent.

“I think we can find a better level,” said Patrick Sharp. “It's gonna get tougher and tougher as the series drags on, and as things get a little more intense you have to get better.

“We have a lot of respect for how they play. It's a tough series, but we always try to play better and better as the series goes on.”

Corey Crawford has won both games for the Hawks in the series, and if not for him, Game 4 would have been the final match of the season for the home team.

“The last two probably weren't my best games,” Crawford said. “Then again, I can't be thinking about what happened before. I have to think about what's next.”

What's next for the Hawks' lines? Good question.

Joel Quenneville didn't just juggle the lines to start the game, he completely reshuffled the deck, throwing the cards in the air and picking them up off the ground in random order.

“Joel likes to mix and match until he finds something, and we're used to that, to playing with a lot of different guys,” Sharp said. “It's nothing new or surprising for us. We trust his decisions.”

In the first 20 minutes, with the Hawks getting outworked for the fourth straight game, and rookie goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy making his first postseason start, the Hawks were outshot 9-2 in the first, perhaps the most uninspired period of the series by the Hawks.

“We would have liked to test him more for sure early,” Sharp said. “That's a great team we're playing and they don't make it easy.”

The Hawks finally scored first and it was the newly-created line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Sharp that got it done — and got Toews back on the score sheet.

Sharp got in alone and hit the post, but moments later Hossa fired on net and Sharp got a piece of the rebound, tipping it to Toews who shoveled it in for a 1-0 Hawks lead at 6:40 of the second.

It was Toews' second point of the series and first goal since the first period of Game 7 against Anaheim 12 days ago.

“They're fun guys to play with,” Sharp said. “I thought we created some chances.”

As they frequently do, the Bolts came back 5 minutes later and tied it up during a fire drill with three Hawks caught behind the net. Valtteri Filppula made a sweet dish to Alex Killorn and Crawford had no chance to make a play.

The Hawks got the lead back at 6:22 of the third when Brandon Saad — on the ice with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane — walked out from the corner off a faceoff and slid one through the legs of Vasilevskiy for his eighth goal of the playoffs, also netting Kane his first point of the series.

From there, it was the Hawks hanging on by a thread, and Crawford saving the day. Steven Stamkos missed an open net in the final minute and with less than 20 seconds remaining Crawford stoned him.

“It was pretty intense there at the end,” Crawford said. “It was a serious battle the last few minutes, but the guys did a great job in front of me.”

Repetition is a Hawks trait, so no surprise they were tied at 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Final in both 2010 and 2013, and two years ago they had to win Game 4 in overtime in Boston to knot the series, coming back to win three straight and the Cup again.

It's not as if the Hawks enjoy trailing in a series or a game, but dating back three years it's just been what they've done, returning from the dead more often than Elvis, and finding a way to get it done.

Under Quenneville, the Hawks are 30-30 in Games 1-3 of playoff series and 41-14 in Games 4-7.

“Not everything goes your way all the time,” Crawford said. “Sometimes you're down and you just have to keep working. No one gives you anything.

“But it's a pretty big difference 2-2 or going back there 3-1. We have to keep this momentum going, keep playing our game and stay patient.”

So now the pressure shifts to a young Tampa team that knows it can't return to Chicago down 3-2.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I'm sure they do, too,” Sharp said. “There's enough incentive. We want to win that next game.”

Maybe the Hawks will relax now and start to play like they're two-time champs.

If they do that, they'll have chance to make it three here in Chicago next week.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM.

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