MONTREAL -- With his mom, Sylvia, watching proudly from the stands, Corey Crawford had one of his best performances of the season.
But not even that -- an electrifying 36-save effort -- could salvage victory on this night.
Not with that kind of careless puck management, and not with the glut of imprudent stick infractions the Chicago Blackhawks seemed destined to commit early on.
From the very beginning, the Blackhawks were playing catch-up after punishing themselves with ill-timed turnovers and offering little resistance to the Montreal Canadiens' relentless pursuit.
Andrei Markov delivered the dagger Saturday night, scoring once in regulation and adding another early in overtime to secure a 2-1 win for the home side.
The Blackhawks (29-8-10) have now lost three straight and five of their past seven games, but regained the Central Division lead as a result of the point earned in overtime.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Crawford said. “We expect to win, and it’s frustrating when we don’t. One point is better than nothing, but it’s not what we play for.
“We’re not at all satisfied with an overtime loss. We want and we need to win right now.”
Marian Hossa tied the game with his 16th goal of the season with 11 minutes, 38 seconds to play in the third period, redirecting a Jonathan Toews feed past Carey Price. Patrick Sharp had a chance to end it late, but his bid for a buzzer-beater struck iron.
Price had to make only 19 saves for the win.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight,” Hossa said. “Montreal played well and was patient in the neutral zone, but we can’t be turning over the puck like that. It leads to quality offensive opportunities the other way, and you certainly saw that tonight.”
Officially, the Blackhawks were credited with 12 turnovers -- six in the first period alone.
“Our puck recognition wasn’t great,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s hurting us right now.”
“I don't know if it's so much about the teams we're playing or if it's something we're doing,” Toews added. “In the third, we started playing with a little more hunger, a little more intensity. It's one thing to roll four lines, but in that period, everyone was going and playing more responsibly.”
Markov opened the scoring at 12:54 of the second period, sifting a wrist shot through a maze and past Crawford on the Canadiens’ 18th shot of the night. He won it in similar fashion -- from almost exactly the same spot -- rifling a missile into the corner of the cage 88 seconds into the extra frame.
Crawford couldn’t be faulted on either.
“He was unbelievable tonight,” Hossa said. “He made so many huge saves for us. We really wanted to win this one for him.”
After losing his stick and making the initial stop on Prust, Crawford made a sensational right-pad save on Eller to preserve the one-goal deficit.
He had another, equally impressive answer for Prust early in the third, when he snared the forward’s bid for an insurance marker.
“Corey had another great game,” Quenneville said. “He's approaching his game with a purpose and is taking charge. Tonight, he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to get two [points] and was certainly a factor in us getting one.
“We need to give him something better to work with. Five games in a row we've played from behind. I think we're a better team when we're playing ahead.”
The Blackhawks return home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night at the United Center. While this current stretch has been a disappointing one for all, there’s some appeal to getting back to work less than 24 hours after a heartbreaking loss.
“We have to battle through this, and we know it won't be easy, but we have to,” Hossa said. “We’ve got to turn this around as a team, and that has to start tomorrow night.”