DETROIT -- It was the type of goal that could have haunted Corey Crawford for a long time, but instead it's now just a footnote.
The Chicago Blackhawks goaltender missed a long, fluttering shot from Detroit Red Wings center Joakim Andersson in the second period of Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena. The goal gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead, and the Blackhawks were facing elimination by their rivals after capturing the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team in the regular season.
"I pretty much told myself, 'It can't get any worse,'" Crawford said.
Crawford rebounded with several strong saves shortly after the goal to keep the Blackhawks within one. Then his teammates regrouped during the second intermission and rallied with three goals in less than nine minutes during the third period that proved the difference in a 4-3 victory to force Game 7 on Wednesday in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"The boys just got excited in here and fired up and ready to rock," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We had to lay it all on the line. There was really nothing to say. We had to win to save our season. The boys really stepped up. [Crawford] was a wall back there for us in the third and it was a good period for us."
Chicago forward Bryan Bickell said, "Being down 2-1 going into the third, we had nothing to lose, we were throwing everything at them. We owed [Crawford]. He's been standing on his head the whole series and the whole playoffs. We're happy to be able to get the win for him."
The shot from Andersson was harmless. Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl intercepted Seabrook's pass in the neutral zone and fed Andersson, who skated into the zone on the left wing and just wanted to put a wrist shot on net.
Crawford put out his glove to catch it, but he just missed it. The puck was turning end over end in the air, but there wasn't a lot on it.
"I just ... I lost it. I lost it. That's a brutal one obviously, but I was able to rebound after that," Crawford said. "I just wanted to come up with the next save and build off that and keep going and keep us in the game."
That is exactly what happened. The game had been evenly played to that point, but the next few minutes were dominated by the Red Wings. Detroit poured 18 shots on Crawford in the second, but the knuckler from Andersson was the only one to get by him.
By the time the Red Wings did solve him again, it was too late.
"He played great," Seabrook said. "It was one of those shots that it was on [Andersson's] stick and it was rolling and he shot it. I don't know if it dipped or what, but it was one that [Crawford] wanted to have back. We wanted to pick him up, and he was huge in the third for us."
Chicago forward Michael Frolik, one of the goal-scorers in the third period, said, "He's been unbelievable and he's made so many good saves for us. That one wasn't a really good one, but for sure, we wanted to go get a goal for him and win the game for him. It happens, those kind of goals, bad bounces.
"I'm glad we were able to do it for him."
Though Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard garnered plenty of attention with excellent performances in Games 2, 3 and 4, Crawford has yielded five goals in his team's three victories. Toss in his work in the opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild, and Crawford has the second-best goals against average among the starting goaltenders in these playoffs at 1.78, and he's third in save percentage at .935.
He's a huge reason Chicago's penalty killing has been outstanding (one goal allowed in 39 shorthanded chances). Crawford would have been a goat in this game, but he gave his teammates time to regroup from what could have been a crushing goal, then they backed him up with an impressive third period.
"It's a huge momentum shift," Crawford said of the goal. "Any time something like that happens, obviously the crowd got going and the team feeds off their crowd. Whatever. It happened. You just get past it and move on.
"[My teammates] have been great all series. It is a little bit of a relief when the guys can come back and play awesome and at the start of the third period like that. It feels good."
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer