There’s running into a hot goalie, and then there’s whatever Corey Crawford was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
Crawford stopped all 36 shots he faced, and Artem Anisimov’s power play goal at the 8:58 mark of the second period stood up as the game-winning goal as the Blackhawks shutout the Flyers by a 3-0 final.
It’s the 22nd shutout of Crawford’s career, and he earned it as the Flyers brought one high-quality scoring chance after another all night long. In the end they couldn’t solve the veteran netminder and saw a pair of goals by Anisimov and Jonathan Toews 20 seconds apart in the second period fuel the Hawks.
Chances came early for the visiting Flyers, but the best was just 3:33 in on a breakaway by Valtteri Filppula, who was unable to beat Corey Crawford’s glove side on a quick developing rush.
Noticeable once again was the fourth line of the Flyers, with Taylor Leier, Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton creating some nice early chances against the Blackhawks defense. The line continued to use its speed and puck possession to generate zone time and chances.
Despite having the better of the scoring chances in the games first eight minutes, a high-sticking penalty to Filppula at the 7:35 mark gave the Hawks a chance to get back momentum. On the first man-advantage of the night the Hawks managed three shots, but Brian Elliott stood tall in net to keep things scoreless through the first half of the period.
Tensions rose between the rivals when Connor Murphy blasted Taylor Leier with an open-ice hit as Leier searched for a loose puck. Murphy would soon have to answer for the hit as Scott Laughton took the defenseman to task.
Connor Murphy vs Scott Laughton pic.twitter.com/LS8HY3EqAY— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 2, 2017
Crawford would make another great save on Filppula—who had a great first 20 minutes— late in the period, denying him on a wraparound that nearly gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with just under two minutes left in the frame. At the end of the same shift, Filppula would take his second penalty of the period for hooking Nick Schmaltz.
On the ensuing Blackhawks power play the Flyers would hunker down in front of Elliott and come up with a couple of shot blocks and a key clear by Robert Hagg on a puck that snuck behind his goalie to keep things scoreless after 20 minutes.
What a save by Robert Hagg! pic.twitter.com/kZ9Ch60zIw— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 2, 2017
Travis Sanheim got a great chance but was denied in close by Crawford just after the Flyers killed off that Blackhawks penalty. Filppula created the space and Sanheim jumped up on the play for a great scoring chance for the rookie.
A series of back-to-back two-on-ones from both teams highlighting the early action of the second period as play opened up a bit. First it was Chicago’s turn, ending with an Alex DeBrincat shot wide. Then it was the Flyers’ turn, but Sean Couturier’s shot attempt was stifled by Hawks defenseman Cody Franson.
Chicago would break the ice with a power play goal from Artem Anisimov to make it 1-0 at the 8:58 mark. Cody Franson and Patrick Kane picked up assists as the Hawks finally capitalized on their fourth power play of the night.
Jonathan Toews would extend the Hawks’ lead to 2-0 just 20 seconds later after a bouncing puck alluded Robert Hang and sent Toews in on Elliott. It was a bad break for the rookie defenseman and a calm finish from Toews to beat Elliott easily.
Back-to-back power plays for the Flyers didn’t yield any goals, much less quality chances, with just one shot on goal. The top unit led by Claude Giroux and Co. was able to gain plenty of zone time but couldn’t find the net as Chicago did a nice job blocking off shooting lanes in front of Corey Crawford.
Outside of that 20-second stretch in the middle of the period, the Flyers competed well for the bulk of the period. What didn’t help was playing the entire period with just five defenseman, as Radko Gudas left the game and did not return following the first intermission. Gudas appeared to be hurt by an inadvertent elbow from Brandon Saad in the first period.
Jake Voracek got a nice chance early in the third using his speed to break in on the Hawks goal, but was denied as Crawford stayed with him the whole way.
Crawford stayed on his game on the Flyers’ ensuing power play, stopping several shots including the most dangerous from Wayne Simmonds at the top of the crease. In all the veteran turned aside all four shots as the Flyers pushed to draw within one during the mad-advantage to no avail.
Claude Giroux nearly broke the shutout after taking a beautiful stretch pass from Voracek cross-ice, but again Crawford made an outstanding save to deny the Flyers on a great scoring chance with 11:39 left in the third.
Not to be outdone at the other end, Brian Elliott would rob Brandon Saad in tight off a great feed from Patrick Kane to keep the Flyers within two goals as time ticked down past 2:30 left in the third. Elliott was overshadowed by Crawford all night, but made a number of key saves (32 saves on 34 shots) to keep the Flyers’ comeback hopes alive.
With desperation set in, just 1:49 remaining on the clock, and the Flyers’ net empty, Alex DeBrincat would put the nail in the coffin to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead. John Hayden and Artem Anisimov would pickup assists on the goal.
Despite carrying play for long stretches in this one, the Flyers simply couldn’t solve Corey Crawford and that was the difference. Sometimes you have just tip your cap in lieu of an outstanding performance and that was the case here.