Coach Joel Quenneville had a short list of things he liked out of the Blackhawks' shootout victory over the Dallas Stars: the score, the shootout and Corey Crawford.
Especially Corey Crawford.
Crawford stopped 42 of 44 shots in regulation and overtime and Artemi Panarin had the shootout winner as the Blackhawks edged the Stars 3-2 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks are now eight points up on the Minnesota Wild, who lost 3-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blackhawks will take the victories but the way they're playing lately has been not at the standard they'd like. Crawford, who had a forgettable outing against Vancouver on Tuesday – he was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots – was outstanding in this one on a night the Blackhawks needed him to be.
Crawford did not talk to reporters after the game, a rarity following a victory. Asked if Crawford was alright, Quenneville said, "I think he's fine."
Patrick Kane scored his 33rd goal of the season and had a shootout goal to offset Tyler Seguin's. As for the lines, once again revamped some in Artem Anisimov's absence, Quenneville wasn't too happy with those, either.
Marian Hossa, who scored his 24th of the season to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 edge eight minutes into the third period, said the team lacked a complete game again.
"We played three teams most likely not going to the playoffs. But if we want to get ourselves ready for the playoffs we have to play a full 60 because it's not going to be enough just to play 20, 40 or 50 minutes," he said.
The Stars, who are nearing the end of a very disappointing season, fired chance after chance at Crawford. Those opportunities got better as the game wore on. Only Ales Hemsky solved him, scoring both of the Stars’ goals. But the damage was limited as Crawford stopped many odd-man rushes and breakaways.
"He played amazing tonight. The reason we won the game. He's done that a lot this year," Kane said. "For a goalie, it's tough to show up every night. Even the goals he gave up the last game, you can't put all the blame on him. He was outstanding tonight."
Points-wise, the Blackhawks are in a great situation. They're pulling away from the Wild, who have struggled most of March. They're within reach of the Presidents' Trophy. The Blackhawks are fine with both of those but their overall game is their main concern, which lately has been lacking.
"Over the last six or seven games we've leveled off from the 10-15 before that. We have another level to give and get back to," Kane said. "We're still finding ways to get points. It's a tough schedule, we're playing a lot of games. You're not going to have your best every night. Even if you're not at your best or [have] the most energy, nice to come out of it with points."