Crawford scored a terrific 48 and the Blackhawks survived their first-round playoff series after beating the Vegas Golden Knights 3–1 on Sunday night.
“It’s probably as good as he’s ever been,” said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. I don’t know what the shots were, but he had too many shots, and he made himself big every time. There wasn’t a lot of rebellion around either, so it was a big part of that. He was our best player tonight. ”
Drake Cagigula and Matthew Highmore scored first-period goals for the Blackhawks, and Alex DeBrinat added an empty-netter with 10 seconds left. Chicago gave Robin Lehner his first loss in a Golden Knights uniform as the goalkeeper was acquired in a trade with the Blackhawks in February.
Vegas suffered its first loss since arriving in Edmonton for an NHL restart. The Golden Knights, who entered Sunday were the last invincible team to resume, will have another chance to shut down the Blackhawks in Game 5 on Tuesday.
“The mood in the room is that if we continue to play like that for Game 5, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” said Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt.
Shia Theodore scored his fourth playoff goal for Vegas for the first time when his shot from the point slipped through traffic in front of the net. But it was the only time the Golden Knights managed to defeat Crawford in a night when the playoff-tested veteran was the best player on the ice.
Crawford, who was in net when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015, set a playoff career high for saves in a regulation game.
“I think for the most part we kept them out when they seemed to be where they probably had a second or two to capture and shoot,” Crawford said. “It wasn’t really coming from the middle, so. Which helps me a lot to stay on the angle and give me a lower net.”
Playing less than 24 hours after the 2–1 defeat in Game 3, Crawford faced an attack from the start, especially as the Blackhawks took a 2–0 lead on Highmore’s unforeseen goal. Highmore threw a shot to the net from under the goal line and Lehner attempted to redirect the puck with his head, but instead sent it into his net.
“It went into the net, so I wasn’t very happy about it,” Lehner said. “It’s a game of mistakes. I made a mistake. It was a great shot, too. But I have to do that.”
Theodore’s shot slipped through, but did nothing else. Crawford relied on every challenge, especially as the Golden Knights continued to test him for Gloves with high shots. Crawford made a diving save on Max Pacioretty and filled William Carlson on a breakway in the second period.
But Crawford’s best sequence may have come in the middle of the third period when he intercepted Curlson’s attempt with his mask and then shot Zach Whitecloud’s wrist from inside the right circle.
“Our third period was very good,” ‘Crawford said. “They just looked to throw fritters on the net, and our guys were there to clean it up and just remove it from there, get it out of the chaos. We came back defensively in the third.”
Chicago’s penalty killers also had a solid night. The Vegas man went 0-for-3 with the advantage and has not scored a power-play goal in the series. The Blackhawks have hit the last 14 power plays for the qualifying round against Edmonton.
Lehner had won all seven of his matches since arriving in Vegas – three in the regular season and four in Edmonton. Lehner scored 22 runs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.