Unsung Crawford steps up again

His play was especially key after the Kings tied the game on a nice redirect of a Tanner Pearson pass by Tyler Toffoli before the second period was five minutes old. The Blackhawks had been denied a 2-0 lead moments earlier when a Toews goal was called back because the Blackhawks captain interfered with Kings netminder Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the line.

The Kings seized the moment and controlled the play for most of the period. But Crawford was excellent and midway through the period Duncan Keith's hard point shot glanced off Trevor Lewis and ricocheted off the ice and over Quick's shoulder to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead, one which they would not relinquish.

"Confidence has always been there," Crawford said. "The first thing is being prepared, having that preparation to play, to try and have my game at the highest level it can be each time I get out there.

"It's knowing the other team, their tendencies. After that, it's just going out there and playing. Also I'm getting a lot of help from our guys in front of me. That third period today was rock solid. I don't remember too many great chances that they got in the third. We kind of just shut them down there, obviously got a key goal by [Toews].

"I approach every next game. That's always the most important. Game 2 is now the most important. I'm going to rest up now and prepare for that."

During the 2012 playoffs, Crawford allowed a couple of questionable overtime goals to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round and the Blackhawks were bounced in six games. There were questions about his mental toughness.

Those questions, if they haven't completely been answered, are asked in much quieter voices now.

After dropping the first two games of this postseason, Crawford has won nine of 11, including three in a row. Since those opening two losses against the St. Louis Blues, in which he allowed eight goals and publicly acknowledged he needed to be better, Crawford has allowed two or fewer goals eight times. He has now allowed one goal in each of his last three games.

"No, I think he's like he was last year," offered winger Bryan Bickell. "A couple of years ago, he had that mishap and I think he just picked it up mentally. It's nice to see him there and have him there every shift, every game. He's doing everything it takes. You can see a couple of big saves on the power play for them but hat's off to him, he does it every night."

While the Blackhawks are favored to win this series, if there is a theory supporting another upset by the 2012 Stanley Cup champs it's that Quick gives the Kings an edge in goaltending. That's not how it turned out Sunday, not that Crawford pays much attention to the man behind the mask at the other end of the ice.

"No, unless he skates down the ice and starts dangling around our guys," Crawford told reporters. "I mean, I'm focused on their players. It really doesn't affect my game, whatever goes on at the other end."

The answer brought some chuckles from reporters and an amused nod of the head from Toews, who was sitting next to his goaltender.

"Well said," Toews said with a big grin.

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