Memorable penalty shot for Corey Crawford

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Corey Crawford couldn't remember the last time he has faced a penalty shot. Let alone, won the battle.

"I think it was last year," the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender said, drawing a blank.

He’ll have something more recent to recollect now.

On Tuesday night in South Florida, he made Jonathan Huberdeau come up empty when he blanked the Florida Panthers center on a penalty shot at the 9:24 mark of the second period. It was a pivotal point in a game during which a one-goal differential again became the central theme for the defending Stanley Cup champs in the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers at BB&T Center.

Crawford's save on the penalty shot kept the game at 1-0 nearly five minutes after Jonathan Toews scored his third goal of the year for the Blackhawks.

"As a goalie, you always want to stop those," said Crawford, who improved to 5-1-2 this season after stopping 20 of the 22 shots he faced. "I was able to just get the gap and get close to him. He made a good first move, and I just got the pads on it."

After he allowed two third-period goals to tie the game, Crawford came up big in the shootout. He stopped Huberdeau again, this time on the Panthers' first shot in the three-player shootout. Crawford then stoned Panthers right winger Brad Boyes on Florida's second shot in the extra session.

Patrick Sharp's goal on the third shot for the Blackhawks proved to be the difference in what became the seventh one-goal game of the season for Chicago. It was the Blackhawks' fourth victory in those one-goal verdicts.

"It was important," Crawford said of the two shootout stonewalls he put on the Panthers. "Our team never really gets down. Obviously, you don't want to give up a two-goal lead with 10 minutes to go on the road. That was definitely tough to swallow. We got over it pretty quick. We just got to be more confident."

Crawford allowed two goals on even-strength situations but was the beneficiary of Toews' power-play goal, which marked the sixth game the Blackhawks have converted with an extra man on the ice. Yet after giving up the two goals late, Crawford wasn't about to become the goat with the game on the line.

"He did a nice job on the penalty shot," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his 28-year-old netminder playing in his eighth NHL season. "I thought it was encouraging.

“We stabilized the game, and found a way to get two [points for the win]. I don't think we were playing any differently than we did in the first two periods. We're not complaining."

Chicago has not scored a goal in the third period since the opener. But the Blackhawks have won two of their past three shootouts, all decided by 3-2 outcomes. Sharp and Toews both cashed in during the shootout. Toews' goal proved to be the game winner after Crawford stood on his toes between the pipes.

Without pointing blame at anyone, Sharp confessed the two-goal lead that was erased in the third period is something that needs to change.

"We're certainly not happy about giving up leads in the third period," Sharp said. "I feel like every game we're having a letdown. We feel positive that we got two points at the end of the day."

Chicago's two points moved them within two points of the Central Division-leading Colorado Avalanche as the Blackhawks head to Tampa on Thursday to play the Lightning for a chance to draw even in the standings.

"We don't want to fall behind," Crawford said. "We want to be first. We want to strive to be the best. We're a team that takes it day by day. Whatever [Colorado is] doing has absolutely nothing to do with us."

Late-game offense where art thou? That's a question the Blackhawks must be asking themselves, whether they want to admit it or not, after failing to score in the third period for the eight straight game since the 6-4 season-opening win over the Washington Capitals 21 days ago.

After surrendering a two-goal lead with 8:09 left in the game, the Blackhawks were searching for an answer. Not since Marian Hossa scored an unassisted goal with 38 seconds remaining on a night the championship banner was raised to the rafters at the United Center has Chicago cashed in the final period.

"I don't think we're playing any differently than we did the first two periods," Quenneville said. "Everybody gets a turn, and for the most part we're doing the right things. I'm not worried about our offense."