Blackhawks' Crawford overcomes rough start in 5-3 win
Corey Crawford had a tough act to follow Tuesday night.
With Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville going back to Crawford, his No. 1 goaltender, despite Ray Emery's 45-save effort at Calgary on Saturday, it was Crawford entrusted with beating the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
Crawford had a rough start, giving up 3 goals in the first period, but he got better as the game went on as the Hawks overcame an early hole to beat the Sharks 5-3.
Fortunately for Crawford and the Hawks, Antti Niemi was struggling at the other end as well and also gave up 3 in the first 20 minutes
Patrick Kane's goal at 11:52 of the second period put the Hawks ahead 4-3. It was set up beautifully by Jonathan Toews, who stole the puck from defenseman Douglas Murray and found Kane alone in front.
Kane added an empty-net goal with 1:12 to play after Niemi had been pulled for a sixth attacker.
The win kept the Hawks without a loss in regulation at 8-0-2 while San Jose dropped to 7-2-1.
Dave Bolland returned to the lineup and took his place at center on the second line between Kane and Patrick Sharp.
The Hawks entered the game first in the league in penalty killing at 94.4 percent and were expected to be challenged by the Sharks, who had the fifth-best power play led by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski.
"Positioning is going to be important," Quenneville told reporters before the game. "Clearing the front of the net and making sure there's nothing loose hanging around. They have quick sticks and put a lot of pucks in that area. Whether it's their entries, blocking shots, they do put a lot of pucks at the net and anticipate each other well."
In this condensed 48-game season when practice time is so scarce, special teams are the focal point for the Hawks.
"We're really trying to manage these guys away from the rink as best we can," Quenneville said. "Special teams, when we get on the ice, we'll try to work on that as best we can."
Special teams were not a factor in the 6-goal first period.
The Sharks got 2 goals in the first five-plus minutes from Joe Pavelski and Evanston native Tommy Wingles, but Brandon Saad scored his first NHL goal at 10:08 to bring the Hawks back into the game.
Michal Handzus quickly made it 3-1 at 10:47, beating Crawford on the short side, but Andrew Shaw answered just eight seconds later on a pass from Bryan Bickell.
The Hawks tied it 3-3 on a goal by Marcus Kruger at 11:37 off a scramble in front.
The Hawks might have caught a break at 8:48 of the second period when Andrew Desjardins drew a match penalty for a check to Jamal Mayers' head. Replays showed it to be a borderline call.
Duncan Keith jumped to Mayers' aid and got a fighting major and two minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct while Desjardins got a fighting major in addition to the match penalty.