Updated: July 1, 2014 6:51AM
LOS ANGELES — Corey Crawford slammed his stick in frustration as he left the ice after giving up two goals in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 5, then returned for the second period and gave up two more goals.
But by the end of the game, Crawford was one of the Blackhawks’ biggest heroes. Nineteen saves over the third period and overtime — 40 in all — have that effect. It was just the latest sign of Crawford’s mental toughness, considering he was coming off three subpar outings to begin with.
“He really settled down,” Joel Quenneville said. “After the fourth one, he did everything we were looking for, really showed composure, and I like how he battled through it. After that fourth one, we needed him to be great. He delivered.”
Crawford said a short memory was the key.
“Move on after every shot,” he said. “It’s always the next shot that’s important. Never give up, in a tight game like that, our team always has a chance. I always have confidence in our guys to score goals. Can’t give up, can’t give up in a game like that because like I said, we’re so resilient and we have a lot of firepower to come back in games.”
Once again, though, Crawford could have used a little more help from his teammates. The Kings again were able to camp out in front of him with minimal resistance from the Hawks defensemen. And the Hawks also had trouble clearing pucks out of the crease — on the Kings’ first goal, Jarret Stoll got to the puck in the crease only after Nick Leddy and Patrick Sharp each failed to get their sticks on it.
“That’s their game plan — they try to throw a lot of pucks into the crease and into the feet and kind of crash the net,” Michal Rozsival said. “They scored a couple goals like that. Sometimes as a defenseman or forward, you are lucky to find the puck and clear it. Sometimes, you are not. Just have to keep it simple and if you have a chance, just kind of muck it out in the corner and get it into a safe area.”
Said Quenneville: “That’s an area for sure we want to be better at.”
Kris Versteeg didn’t see the ice again after committing two turnovers that led to the Kings’ game-tying goal in the second period. Quenneville wouldn’t tip his hand, but said there “could” be a lineup change for Game 6. The likeliest candidate to replace Versteeg is Peter Regin. Regin is a center by trade, but played on the wing with the New York Islanders earlier in the season.
“It was a tough night,” Quenneville said of Versteeg. “Just have to battle through it. It’s a competitive game, not a lot of time and space. You have to do what you can to advance the puck and contribute.”
Andrew Shaw looked seriously injured late in the third period when his right leg buckled beneath him as he battled along the boards. But he returned for overtime and is good to go for Game 6.
“He’s fine,” Quenneville said. “Tough guy. Came back and was real good for us all game.”
Marcus Kruger, meanwhile, took a monster his at center ice from Jake Muzzin. He, too, is “fine,” according to Quenneville. Kruger seems to have a knack for getting crushed along the boards — an occupational hazard when you do much of your work in such areas.
“He takes some tough hits,” Quenneville said. “It looked like he probably got crushed, but it wasn’t that bad. It was right in front of us. I got to see it. Sometimes you make contact with the boards and get hit pretty hard, but he’s good about absorbing it, rolling off it. Tough, too.”
Quenneville shook up the defensive pairings for Game 5, putting Niklas Hjalmarsson with Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy with Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival with Brent Seabrook. It was a rare departure from the normal three pairings — Keith and Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson and Oduya were together pretty much all season.
“It was kind of a surprise to all of us,” Rozsival said. “I mean, it worked, right? Whatever, you know. We still gave up four goals, but we end up winning the hockey game, which is the most important thing. Sometimes things like that can spark something in a hockey team.”