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Corey Crawford, Blackhawks blank Predators 3-0 for another road win

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) blocks shot by Nashville Predators center David Legw(11) second period an NHL hockey game

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) blocks a shot by Nashville Predators center David Legwand (11) in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Updated: February 10, 2013 11:48PM



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The last thing Corey Crawford wanted to do was think about it, but after 630 days of waiting, he couldn’t quite help it.

Yes, as the clock ticked slowly down below five minutes Sunday — five minutes left in the game, five minutes left in a six-city, 13-night road trip, five minutes left in the first quarter of the season — the Blackhawks goaltender briefly acknowledged that he was tantalizingly close to his (and the team’s) first shutout since the 2011 playoffs.

“Come on,” he said with a smile. “I knew. I knew.”

So after Crawford made his 17th and final save of the night, and the clock hit triple-zeroes and the Hawks had a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators — their first shutout since April 21, 2011, against the Vancouver Canucks — it was just one more big reason for big smiles all around.

As if being undefeated in regulation (10-0-2) at the quarter-pole wasn’t good enough. As if rolling through the dreaded Ice Show trip with a 4-0-2 mark wasn’t going to send hockey-starved Hawks fans into enough of a tizzy upon their return to the United Center on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

“It feels good to finally get one,” Crawford said. “Our guys played a great game overall. That was just a solid road win for us. It seems like we just didn’t make any mistakes.”

Unlike the last two victories over the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes, this one wasn’t one for the highlight reels. Games against the stingy Predators rarely are. The Hawks won this one with goaltend­ing, defense and opportunistic scoring. Crawford made only 17 saves, but a few of them — particularly in the third period, with the shutout on the line — were of the stellar variety. And until a late flurry of shots, more shots were blocked by the Hawks (14) than actually made it on goal.

Meanwhile, the Hawks did just what Jonathan Toews said they would have to do — grind out some goals. Marcus Kruger beat Pekka Rinne with a steal and a wrister in the second period, and Toews deflected a Duncan Keith backhander in 66 seconds later. Considering the offensively challenged Predators average only two goals per game, by the time Patrick Kane scored for the fifth consecutive game — from a sharp angle reminiscent of his Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 — early in the third period, the only question that remained was whether the Hawks would get the shutout.

And, yes, everybody knew it had been a while.

“I don’t think really anybody talked about it, but we all knew in the back of our minds, especially going into the third, as the clock kept creeping down,” Keith said. “It’s something to be proud of. Two years, or a year-and-a-half, however long it was, it’s too long. It was nice to get that, for sure.”

Now, after spending the better part of four weeks on the road, the Hawks come home for a seven-game homestand in front of a fan base that’s been setting television-ratings records nearly every night and is frothing at the mouth to see the league’s top team try to continue its stunning start.

“Let’s get excited, with the building and the noise and the fans,” coach Joel Quenneville said.



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