CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' Game 4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning concluded with a frenetic burst of action, yet there was always an eye at the center of the storm. Surrounded by chaos and thousands of people ready to jump on any possible mistake, Corey Crawford showed once again that the team's belief in him is well deserved.
“He was outstanding tonight. Call it a goalie win,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford after the 2-1 win. “Loved how he battled. He's a battler. It was a great illustration of how he stayed with it -- how they swarmed us at the end."
The Blackhawks survived a quiet start to take a lead in the third period on a goal by Brandon Saad, but needed to make a final stand as the Lightning desperately pushed for an equalizer to force overtime. There were several chances, including a Steven Stamkos shot from the slot that got redirected by Brent Seabrook, but Crawford fought off every last one of them to secure the win.
The goaltender's heroic performance led to "Corey! Corey! Corey!" chants raining from the rafters in those waning moments, a deserved bit of appreciation from the fans after one of his best performances of the season. Other than the tying goal from Tampa Bay, which came when Crawford was fooled by a brilliant Valtteri Filppula pass that set up Alex Killorn right at the doorstep, Crawford was perfect in Game 4.
That's especially impressive given the Lightning's late push. Four of Crawford's 24 saves came in the final minute-plus as Tampa Bay pressed with six attackers, and another six shots were either blocked or missed the net. Stamkos nearly stuffed one in during the final minute, but Crawford wouldn't relent.
"I was just trying to take the bottom of the net away,” the goaltender said afterwards. “I think he was maybe a little too close to get it up. He was really in tight. Just make sure there’s no holes there.”
Crawford hasn't always been great in this series, and his struggles early against Nashville gave to way #LemontNativeScottDarling, but like the rest of the Blackhawks, he always seems to step up when it counts. The enduring confidence that engulfs this team extends to Crawford as well, and that's because of nights like this one. After giving up seven goals over the previous two games, Crow showed up and delivered a gem Wednesday.
It was a night full of great saves, from the stops late with the Lightning's net empty to fighting off a breakaway earlier on. Even if Crawford needed some assistance from his defensemen -- Duncan Keith helped stop a wraparound attempt prior to Seabrook's redirect on Stamkos' last-minute shot, both of which may have saved goals -- it was the kind of high-level play Chicago expects, and often gets, from the 30-year-old.
The Blackhawks don't have a perfect goaltender in Crawford, but they have someone who has earned the trust of the entire team. Captain Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Hawks have seen Crawford play like this before, and expect him to play like this again.
"We're impressed but we're definitely not surprised," Toews said after Game 4.
Maybe we'll all stop being surprised soon, too.