The Chicago Blackhawks needed some star power to stave off elimination Saturday night. They also needed a big performance from a goalie who has shouldered the slings and arrows of 'Hawks fans. In yet another overtime thriller in Phoenix, Chicago got both.
Jonathan Toews provided the winning tally 2:44 into the fifth extra frame of the series (tying an NHL record) versus the Coyotes. As his wrist shot sailed over the blocker of Mike Smith for a 2-1 Blackhawks victory in Game 5 of the first-round series, no one could have been feeling better than Corey Crawford.
Two overtime losses at the United Center brought on calls to replace Crawford in the crease with the 'Hawks up against it. Joel Quenneville held firm and his faith in his starter was rewarded.
Crawford faced just half the shots Smith did over the course of the game, stopping 18 of 19 Coyotes shots on goal. However, the embattled Blackhawks goalie kept his club in the game after Gilbert Brule found twine on what was essentially a two-man breakaway early in the second period.
Over those last 40 minutes, Crawford made his share of big saves, holding the lead to a single goal through three Phoenix power plays in the last two periods. Following the tying goal by Nick Leddy midway through the third period, Crawford turned away the Coyotes until Toews' goal guaranteed that both teams would be returning to Chicago for Game 6 on Monday.
Crawford showed a lot of moxie in net Saturday. For Toews, it was a case of one of Chicago's big guns making a big play when it was most needed.
With Patrick Kane struggling to hang onto the puck for most of the night, and Patrick Sharp held in check for most of the series, Toews' second goal of the 2012 playoffs came at the most crucial of times. His 14-of-18 performance at the dot was also a big factor to the Blackhawks' survival.
Having cut the series deficit to 3-2, and taking the series back to Chicago, Toews and Crawford both made statements on the ice for the No. 6 seeds of the Western Conference. Simply put, this series is not over just yet.
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