Blackhawks blank Blues in Game 3
CHICAGO – Corey Crawford was there every time. Slap shots, wristers, backhands and tips, he stopped each one of them.
The Blackhawks needed a rebound game from their goaltender, and he delivered in a big way.
Crawford made 34 saves in his third career postseason shutout, and the Blackhawks got back into their playoff series with the St. Louis Blues with a 2-0 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.
"I'm just going shot by shot," Crawford said. "It's all I could do the whole game was worry about the next one and focus on the next shot and stop that. I don't want anything else going through my mind through that hockey game."
Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger scored as the defending Stanley Cup champions bounced back after a pair of overtime losses in St. Louis. Toews' 21st postseason goal was only the second score by a Blackhawks forward in the series.
"Three games in a row. It's been a very intense series and extremely close," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Ryan Miller shook off another slow start and finished with 23 saves, but Toews' shot at 4:10 of the first went through the goaltender's legs and was the only score for most of the game.
"It's not a good goal. We'll leave it at that," Miller said.
It was quite a turnaround for Crawford, who was upset with his play after Saturday's 4-3 loss. Barret Jackman's winning goal in Game 2 went through Crawford, prompting the goaltender to say he had to play better for Chicago to win.
Quenneville met with Crawford on Sunday, and he responded with one of the best games of his career.
"We have a lot of one-on-one meetings throughout the season, but we get ramped up at playoff time," said Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman. "I generally stay away from the goalies. We chatted. Basically I was commending him on accepting that responsibility (for the loss)."
Crawford drew chants of "Co-rey! Co-rey from the capacity crowd at the United Center. He was helped by a sound performance by Duncan Keith and Chicago's defensemen, who stepped up without the suspended Brent Seabrook.
The Blackhawks killed three St. Louis power plays, while the Blues' penalty-kill unit went 4 for 4, including a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second.
"We knew this was going to be a long series, but we really played hard, we really played well," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We did a lot of the things we needed to do to win the hockey game, but you've got to give their goaler credit. He was good, especially late."
The Blues, who scored tying goals late in regulation in each of the first two games, pulled Miller with 57 seconds left, but the Blackhawks held on. Kruger stuffed home an empty-netter in the final seconds.
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
Each team was without a key contributor after Seabrook wiped out Blues center David Backes with a big hit in Game 2. The five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for Seabrook led to Vladimir Tarasenko's tying power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left.
Seabrook was suspended for three games by the NHL, putting Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup for the first time in the series. Playing with Keith, Brookbank turned in a solid performance in his 19th career playoff game.
While Backes was out with an upper-body injury, center Patrik Berglund returned for the Blues after missing three games. Berglund, who had 14 goals and 18 assists this season, skated behind the net for a nice wraparound opportunity in the first period, but was turned away by Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy.
Seabrook's hit on Backes, and at least one knee-on-knee blow by Bryan Bickell, increased the tension between Central Division rivals. But Game 3 was surprisingly civil, with each team wary of another penalty that could swing the series. There was a lot of chirping from each side, and that was about it.
Looking for a spark, Quenneville put Toews, Patrick Kane and Bickell on the same line for the start of Game 3. The trio had a lot of success in the Blackhawks' run to the title last year.
The move worked.
Toews connected from the top of the left point in the first, beating Miller with a shot that took an unusual bounce. Bickell also created a couple of quality chances with some slick passing.
"If that's how it's going to go in, then we're doing a good job of taking care of the clean chances and the easier ones for them," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was right in front of Toews on the goal. "We just have to keep going."
NOTES: Blues F Vladimir Sobotka went to the locker room after he took a power-play shot off his right arm in the second, but he returned later in the period. ... The announced attendance of 22,112 was the 268th consecutive sellout for the Blackhawks, counting the playoffs.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap