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Blackhawks end Avs' streak with 3-1 win

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- There are games when solid is better than spectacular, and Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford proved that Thursday night.

Crawford made the stops when he had to, including late in the third period when the Colorado Avalanche went on a power play while down by a goal, and the Blackhawks held on for 3-1 win at the Pepsi Center.

"He was strong all game long," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford, who finished with 31 saves. "He was square and all the saves he made, his positioning was so good they didn't look like they were great saves."

The Blackhawks were nursing a 2-1 lead when Brent Seabrook pulled down Ryan O'Reilly behind Crawford's net with 2:13 remaining in regulation, giving the Avalanche and its top-ranked power play a chance to tie the game. The Avalanche's odds improved shortly after when goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made a number of huge stops among his 29 saves, left his crease for a sixth attacker.

"The (penalty-killers) know what they have to do and how to do it," Quenneville said. "They're a dangerous team on the power play. Crow had a couple there where the rebounds were in front of him and he held us in."

Marian Hossa did the rest, scoring into Colorado's vacated net with 1:10 remaining for the Blackhawks' second shorthanded goal of the young season.

"I felt pretty good," Crawford said after the Blackhawks completed a sweep of a two-game road trip to improve to 4-0-1 since an opening-night loss in Dallas. "We kept them to the outside for the most part. Against a team like that, eventually they're going to get some chances. They have so much speed and skill, but our third period was really good; we were solid, we didn't give them much."

The Avs, who were coming off a sweep of a five-game road trip, have scored just one goal while losing their two home games, so a rematch in Chicago on Saturday could be a good thing.

"We're looking forward to having another chance to play them, and to get the win this time," said defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, whose second-period goal tied the game 1-1.

Patrick Sharp put the Blackhawks in front to stay at 7:20 of the third period with a blast from the left circle after Varlamov made a big stop against Andrew Brunette. The rebound went to Sharp along the boards, and he skated from behind the net and beat Varlamov with a high shot to the short side.

"It started with a shot from the outside trying to get a rebound with our two guys going to the net," Sharp said. "I heard the crowd do something; I didn't know if there was goalie interference or if he made a huge save. The puck was through there, I tried to fire it on net and get a rebound and it went in."

It took some good fortune – and nearly five full periods – before the Avalanche finally scored their first goal at home this season at 15:27 of the second period to tie the game.

O'Byrne was credited with the goal when a shot by Matt Duchene deflected in the air and hit the 6-foot-5 defenseman as he skated to the front of the net. O'Byrne attempted to knock the puck past Crawford with his stick, but it bounced off his glove into the net for his third goal in 199 career NHL games.
"It was a lucky one," said O'Byrne, who had gone 76 games without a goal since he had one April 3, 2010, against Buffalo. "It seems like most of the goals I score are lucky ones. I was thinking the other day that I hadn't scored in a long time."

Jonathan Toews gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 16:02 of the first period with a shot from the slot off a nifty pass from Daniel Carcillo, who was behind the goal line on the left side of Varlamov's net.

The Avalanche dominated the first 10 minutes of the game but couldn't get a puck behind Crawford, who stopped all 13 shots he faced in the period.

"They were fast and have a lot of skill," Crawford said. "We matched up really good against them … the same thing, fast and a lot of skill and speed. It was a close game. It was back and forth. It was nice to hold out and get a win like that."
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