There was a time early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Corey Crawford lost his job as starting goaltender of the Chicago Blackhawks. After the first two games of the Western Conference First Round, Crawford was replaced by Scott Darling after putting up a 6.75 goals-against average and .809 save percentage.
Crawford took back his job when he won in relief of Darling in Game 6 of the first round. He's been solid ever since, but never better than in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.
After Chicago finally finished off Anaheim with Marcus Kruger's goal at 16:12 of the third overtime to win 3-2 and even the best-of-7 series 1-1, Crawford was given a championship belt the Blackhawks use to honor their player of the game. Though Crawford passed it on to Kruger, his 60 saves qualified him as championship material.
"He could have kept it," Kruger told the Chicago Sun Times. "He deserves it. He was great tonight. He gave us a chance. We're happy to have him."
Though Crawford received some help when the Ducks hit the goal post three times during the extra sessions, one of his more spectacular saves occurred in the second overtime when he stopped Anaheim forward Corey Perry point blank with the left pad.
"We played hard throughout the whole thing and we had some chances," Crawford said, according to the Sun Times. "They had some too that went off the post. Both sides were so close. That was just a great hockey game to watch, I think."
Crawford has a 1.55 GAA and .948 save percentage in his past seven games, and is 6-2 with a 2.32 GAA and .925 save percentage in the playoffs. He stopped all 37 Ducks shots after the second period and his 60 saves are the most by a Blackhawks goaltender in the NHL's expansion era. He has won 11 of his past 15 overtime games and is 4-1 in multiple-overtime games.
"Yeah, maybe I stayed a little more calm. Maybe less nerves, too, when you've been through it before," Crawford told the Sun Times. "As the game goes on, you're able to stay with it pretty good. The ice was getting a little chippy at the end there. It seemed like every time a chance came, everyone was on their toes, hopin' for it."
Following the longest game in Blackhawks history (116:12), Game 3 is Thursday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).