The 26-year-old rookie made 24 saves Wednesday night for his second straight shutout and the defending Stanley Cup champions finally solved the Colorado Avalanche with a 4-0 victory.
“I think he improves every day, he’s learning the league, he’s more familiar with his defense in front of him,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford after his team’s third straight victory. “He’s been consistent all year for us, he’s very confident. … When you get on a roll, the puck looks big to you.”
Crawford preserved his shutout—the third of his career—with two nice stops on Philippe Dupuis(notes) early in the third and then snuffed T.J. Galiardi(notes) on a short-handed breakaway late in the period. Crawford is now 14-3-1 in his last 18 starts dating to Nov. 14 and has taken the top goalie spot away from veteran Marty Turco(notes).
He also blanked the Islanders 5-0 on Sunday.
“We’ve got our full team now, so that’s nice,” Crawford said, referring to the Blackhawks’ injury problems this season that sidelined the likes of Marian Hossa(notes), Patrick Kane(notes) and Brian Campbell(notes) for extended periods.
“It seems I’m getting bounces, too. When the other team has a wide-open net, it bobbles on them. And our defensemen are stepping out on point shots, blocking those. And the forwards are making efforts to block shots,” Crawford added.
Dave Bolland(notes) and Fernando Pisani(notes) had a goal and an assist apiece for the Blackhawks, Troy Brouwer(notes) scored an early goal and Jack Skille(notes) added a score in the final period off a rebound.
It was Chicago’s first win in four games against the Avalanche this season in their final regular-season meeting.
“Early in that game, we might have put one in and it would have been a different game, but we didn’t,” said Colorado scoring leader Matt Duchene(notes). “Give their goalie credit, he played great. They made it pretty tough on us, but we didn’t play our game.”
Forty seconds later, Pisani’s shot at the goal went off the boards behind the net and ricocheted to the other side to a wide open Bolland, who converted into an empty net with Budaj out of position.
“We got down two, three goals. It’s not a recipe for winning,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “You’ve got to be ready to start the game on time. We just weren’t ready for the pace and intensity of that game.”
Bolland’s nifty pass from above the right circle hit Pisani in stride just as he reached the left side of the net and he tipped it in to put Chicago ahead 3-0 at 10:17 of the second.
Chicago, ranked 28th in penalty killing entering the game, fought off two power plays in the first period behind solid play from Crawford, who stopped nine shots.
“Since I’ve been with him he’s been unbelievable,” Bollard said of Crawford, also his teammate in the minors. “Now he’s getting his time in the NHL.”
Pudaj had 27 saves.
Notes: When the glass above the boards was cracked with 2:07 left in the second period, the teams retreated to their locker rooms while it was being repaired. After the intermission, the teams then played the final 2:07 of the second just before beginning the third with a short break in between so the goalies could switch ends. … Avalanche D Kevin Shattenkirk(notes), who didn’t play Monday night in a win over Detroit because of a foot injury, was back in the lineup. Winger Cody McLeod(notes), who’d been sidelined 10 of the previous 11 games with a groin injury, was scratched again. … Most deflating of the three previous losses to the Avalanche for the Blackhawks was Colorado’s 7-5 win in mid-December. That’s when the Avalanche, trailing 5-4, scored three goals in the final 2:24.