CHICAGO – Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford gave up one goal on Saturday night, which sailed past his glove side high into the top right corner of the net off the stick of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.
It was the Bruins' sixth straight goal that beat Crawford to that side of his body in this 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the 11th of their 13 goals scored there in the best-of-7 series and like the five they potted in Game 4 on Wednesday, this one didn't matter either.
Crawford and his teammates didn't let Chara's goal early in the third period of Game 5 rattle them – despite having their lead cut to 2-1 to make it another tight game. Together they gritted out a big 3-1 victory at United Center and took a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"I'm not really listening to it," Crawford said of the near-constant talk about his glove in the previous two days. "I have a job to do. Whatever is being said doesn't really affect what I'm going to do on the ice."
His actions spoke even louder.
Crawford stopped 24 of the 25 shots the Bruins put on net, including eight of nine in the third period with Boston furious pushing for the tying goal despite star center Patrice Bergeron being taken to the hospital between the second and third after sitting out most of the middle period.
"I think it was a big effort by everyone to come back, play defensively, block shots, sacrifice our bodies to block those pucks and quickly get on to offense," Crawford said, one game after five shots eluded him in a 6-5 overtime win that sparked a flurry of questions about whether the Bruins had shaken his confidence. "It's been the same story that we've [had] all year – the great sticks, taking away those passing lanes and just letting me play the shot. [We had] some big blocks too, throughout the game. There was a ton of traffic in front and we were able to get a big block out at the point. Our guys have done that stuff all year long, playing that defensive
Chicago blocked 17 shots, including one by Brent Seabrook with 8:21 left in the third that caused him to miss a shift or two before returning. Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival also blocked two each in the final period to go with another by Andrew Shaw that helped take some of the burden off their goalie.
Crawford, meanwhile, came up with a pair of big saves right off the hop in the third with his team still leading 2-0 and the Bruins making a big push to make it a game. First he stopped David Krejci's wrister from 24 feet away and five seconds later turned away a slapper by Nathan Horton from 30 feet out.
He wound up making four saves in the first 3:26 of the third before Chara's blast from the left circle finally beat him to that much dissected glove side. Crawford wasn't fazed and neither were his teammates.
"It's funny, we keep answering questions about Corey after every game and we give you the same answer," star forward Patrick Sharp said to reporters afterward. "We don't have any questions about him. He's been great for us start to finish. Even giving up five goals [in Game 4], we could care less. He's going to be a rock back there and he was great tonight."
Not that it was all that surprising to his teammates.
"I knew he was going to come in and play one of his best games of the playoffs and he did," Shaw said. "He proved me right. He's been our best player all playoffs."
Crawford also stopped a pair of rapid-fire shots by Carl Soderberg early in the first to keep it scoreless and set the tone for the rest of the game. In the end, the Blackhawks and coach Joel Quenneville looked good for backing up their goaltender amidst a firestorm of criticism.
"They've had my back the whole time," Crawford said. "Our team is pretty tight. We're not going to let anything affect us and like I said a million times, we just keep playing our game no matter what happens."