Blackhawks

2 in 21 gives 'excellent' Crawford win in return

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2 in 21 gives 'excellent' Crawford win in return

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.

Briefly

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.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.