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Crawford Strong In Net; Blackhawks Win Season Opener

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 10, 2014 2:10PM

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. The Blackhawks kicked off the 2014-15 regular season on a positive note Thursday night with a 3-2 shootout win over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. The game was a fast-paced one, with the two Central Division rivals exchanging periods of momentum while Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and his Dallas counterpart, Kari Lehtonen, bent but didn’t break as they forced overtime and the eventual shootout.

The Blackhawks drew first blood with 44 seconds remaining in the opening period thanks to Duncan Keith. The defending Norris Trophy winner one-timed a touch pass from Brent Seabrook and fired it at an odd angle past Lehtonen.

The play in the second period got a bit scrappy and the referees’ whistles got a workout. The Hawks were called for three penalties in the period to the Stars’ two. One of those penalties, a high-sticking call against Niklas Hjalmarsson, resulted in a power play goal by Dallas’ Trevor Daley.

Dallas took the lead five minutes later with a goal by Cody Eakin. The score remained 2-1 midway through the third period when Jonathan Toews won a faceoff, Patrick Kane corralled the puck and passed it to Keith, who shuffled the puck to Patrick Sharp. Sharp then put the puck in play toward the net, where mostly good things happen.

Crawford and Lehtonen remained stalwart between the pipes for the remainder of regulation and the overtime period before Kane notched the game-winner in the second round of the shootout.

For all the fast play, neither team wound up mounting any sort of sustained offensive momentum. Chicago was 1-for-5 on the power play while the Stars were 1-for-6. Dallas outhit the Hawks 25-12, has a 36-30 advantage in faceoff wins and 14 takeaways to Chicago's eight. The most telling statistic was in blocked shots, where the Stars had a 26-12 advantage. This makes Crawford's 23 saves on the night more impressive, as he didn't have teammates in front of him blocking shots and wound up stopping many point blank shots on goal by Dallas. As we mentioned several times last season, Crawford's name will never be mentioned among the NHL's elite goalies, even though he was the best player on the ice throughout the Blackhawks' playoff runs the past two seasons. Without him, the Hawks could have lost last night's game. Coach Joel Quenneville called the game "a goalie win."

"We have to call the cops," Joel Quenneville said. "We stole two points tonight. [Crawford] was great; first period, second period better."

The Blackhawks' next game is their home opener Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center. Puck drop is at 7:30 and the game will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WGN-AM 720.