Corey Crawford waited. And waited. And waited.
The Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender just wanted to get back into the net, wanted to get back to playing the way he did at the end of last season and the beginning of this one.
On Wednesday, he did.
Crawford stopped 20 of 21 shots, some in strong fashion, and the Blackhawks scored two goals within 21 seconds of each other in their 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Blackhawks went into the break the way they hoped, with a stronger showing than in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and with the most points in the NHL (48).
And Crawford got his desired result, too. The Blackhawks No. 1 netminder struggled in November, and backup Ray Emerys hot streak meant Crawford had to bide his time to play again. It was a long wait, and Crawford was glad it was over.
I was pretty hungry to get back in there, Crawford said. I was trying to get into it early, just to get some feeling back. Its not the same as working hard in practice. Youve still got to get some time in the game.
Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp scored those two quick goals for the Blackhawks. Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell added third-period goals.
Crawford was officially back midway through the second period, when he got a stick on Max Paciorettys shot, which seemed destined for the back of the empty net.
I thought it was a goal, I thought (Pacioretty) was celebrating, but Crawford made a great stop, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. When things like that happen, it gives you momentum.
The Blackhawks, down 1-0 at that point, turned that momentum into offense. About a minute later Brunettes shot bounced off Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and past goaltender Peter Budaj to tie it. Then Sharp added his game-winner 21 seconds later.
Teammates were understandably happy for Crawford.
Hes used to playing a lot so not easy for goaltenders to watch a lot of hockey and then go in there and try and play with confidence, Toews said. Its great to see him get the win and we definitely wanted to help him out there.
The Blackhawks enter their long break with the victory they wanted. Crawford came out of his long break with the victory he needed.
It was an excellent game for him and us, coach Joel Quenneville said. He looked sharp, looked quick and was big in the net as well. It was good to see him come back the way he did. I commend him throughout that process how mentally he was focused and prepared. He did a great job.
Sharps baby girl, Madelyn Grace, was at her first Blackhawks game on Wednesday night. Sharp said her first game I get a goal. Hopefully shes up late and sleeps all through the night.
Quenneville was happy with the game of Brandon Pirri, who was called up Wednesday morning. I thought he did a great job. He was smart, made some good plays and had more speed than I previously saw.
Marian Hossa assisted on Sharps goal to extend his point streak to seven games.