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Blackhawks fall 3-2 in overtime in Crawford’s return

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Updated: January 2, 2014 11:45PM



UNIONDALE, N.Y. — For a while there, Corey Crawford had to be wondering what happened to that energized, fundamentally sound, defensively responsible team that had been playing in front of Antti Raanta lately. Because the Blackhawks were a little sluggish, a little sloppy and a little behind halfway through Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders.

“You’re not going to play your best game every single night,” Jonathan Toews said. “Maybe we can just chalk it up to one of those nights where we weren’t clicking, we didn’t have our legs going, we weren’t playing with as much speed and as much intensity.”

With that in mind, the Hawks felt fortunate to salvage a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Nassau Coliseum. And while it was the offense that erased a 2-0 deficit, it was Crawford who earned this point, looking good as ever — particularly in the third period — in his first appearance since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 8 against Florida.

Crawford finished with 31 saves, while the Islanders’ Evgeni Nabokov made 37.

“I had an eye on the puck, I was reading the play pretty good,” Crawford said. “The times where I didn’t get a good read on it, I was able to just stretch out and react to it.”

In the third period alone, Crawford stopped a Brock Nelson breakaway attempt then stuffed a bang-bang John Tavares one-timer on the doorstep to preserve the tie. His finest moment of the game came with two minutes left in regulation, when he robbed Kyle Okposo in the slot, swatting away an uncontested wrist shot in the slot.

But Okposo got redemption in overtime, beating Crawford on a Tavares rebound. Even with the loss, the Hawks now have a point in eight games in a row. Toews said the Hawks were happy to get a point, given the way they played.

“We gave up way too many high-quality chances where he had to make some sprawling saves to keep the puck out,” he said. “Late in the game, Crow definitely kept us in it.”

The Islanders led 2-0 late in the second, thanks to the sluggish Hawks and the stellar play of Nabokov. A poor Johnny Oduya pass led to Casey Cizikas’ breakaway goal in the first period, and a loose Crawford rebound allowed Thomas Vanek to score midway through the second.

But Brent Seabrook one-timed a Kris Versteeg pass past Nabokov for a power-play goal late in the second, and Ben Smith followed up Patrick Sharp and Toews in a goalmouth scrum to chip in the equalizer just 1:50 into the third.

“The positive out of the game was Corey’s play. He got us a point,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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