Andersson took his shot from just beyond the left circle, and there was no one standing in Crawford’s way to screen him. The puck knuckled toward Crawford. He appeared prepared to catch it and put his glove up in position to do so, but the puck soared past him and into the net.
It was as soft a goal as Crawford had allowed all season, and he knew it.
“I lost it,” Crawford said. “I lost it. It’s a brutal one, obviously.”
The goal put the Red Wings ahead 2-1 in the second period in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinal series, and the momentum was tilted fully in their favor. But Crawford knew he couldn’t allow the one goal to seize his mind even as the Red Wings’ fans chanted his name in jest.
The Blackhawks still needed him, and Crawford knew it. He pushed aside the thoughts of the bad goal and moved on with his game. He would fight back to make a handful of key saves over the game’s final 29-plus minutes and finished with 35 stops while helping the Blackhawks to a 4-3 win over the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
“Pretty much told myself, it can’t get any worse,” Crawford said. “Be strong, stop the next one and move on. ... I’m not going to lie, after the second one, it was a pretty tough moment there. I was able to settle myself down and keep battling and tell myself it’s not over, especially with our guys the way we can score. Just got to keep us in the game, a couple big saves and our guys took over.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has shown faith in Crawford throughout the playoffs even when others have questioned him, and he was again impressed with the way Crawford handled adversity Monday.
“He came back strong,” Quenneville said. “I thought he had some composure starting the third period. Our team was fine heading into the third period. They definitely got some momentum in that second period, but I thought we regrouped going into the third and had a real nice period. Obviously scoring definitely helped, but I thought the team, with Crawford, played an outstanding third period.”
Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was just glad they were able to step up for Crawford after all he’s done for them throughout the playoffs. Crawford has a 7-4 record, a 1.78 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in the playoffs this season.
“We have a lot of trust in [Crawford],” Hjalmarsson said. “We knew he was going to make a couple big saves right after, as he did. I think he’s been our best player in the playoffs so far. It feels real good to get back and turn the game around for him. He’s been standing on his head a couple games and saving our [butts] out there. It felt really good to give it back to him today.”