Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner have played almost equal time in net for the Chicago Blackhawks, with neither emerging as the starting goaltender.
It’s a ploy coach Jeremy Colliton has insisted upon and is starting to pay off.
Wednesday night it was Crawford’s turn, and he did something neither he nor the Blackhawks had been able to do since the Vegas Golden Knights entered the NHL in 2017.
Crawford made 39 saves and the Blackhawks beat Vegas 5-3 for their first victory over the Golden Knights.
“We’ve got two guys that are outstanding, and I think they’re both going real well now and that’s a huge advantage for us,” Colliton said. “No matter who is in the net, we’re getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they’ve been big for us.”
Crawford, who improved to 2-0-2 in his last four games, entered 0-3-0 versus Vegas with a 5.38 goals-against average and .859 save percentage.
Colliton said while both his goalies would like to be the primary starter, he’s comfortable with a system that has helped the team to a 5-2-2 streak since Oct. 27.
“Part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level, and that’s going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on,” Colliton said.
Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson each scored his first of the season, and Patrick Kane, Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome also had goals for the Blackhawks.
During their nine-game run, the Blackhawks are tied with Florida for the second-most goals (30) in the NHL behind Boston, which has 35 in that span.
“I know that’s been a long time coming playing these guys, so it’s nice to beat them,” de Haan said. “Tonight was kind of a track meet. We were taking a lot of odd-man rushes here and there, but we were creating a ton at the same time and obviously we just out-capitalized them. These guys play hard at home and we weathered their storm. It was a fun game to play.”
Meanwhile, in an attempt to shake up a stagnant offense that was outscored 11-7 while going 1-2-1 during its most recent road trip, coach Gerard Gallant shuffled Vegas’ lines dramatically.
It seemed to spark the Golden Knights from the opening faceoff, as William Carrier and William Karlsson gave Vegas a 2-0 lead just 6:29 into the game.
But Kane answered 16 seconds after Karlsson’s goal, extending his season-high point streak to seven games since Nov. 2.
The second period took a wild twist in favor of the Blackhawks, as Vegas went from thinking it was ahead 3-1 to trailing 3-2 in a matter of 65 seconds.
In his first game back from his second injury of the season, Vegas wing Alex Tuch lasered a shot past Crawford. The puck appeared to go in, setting off the lights and goal horn, but actually hit the crossbar and was ruled no goal.
Only 20 seconds later, de Haan beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot over his glove to tie the game and swing energy further Chicago’s way. And 45 seconds after that, Gustafsson took advantage of the momentum shift — and a Vegas turnover — to put the Blackhawks in front 3-2.
“Hockey is a weird game and you can feel the momentum swing on the ice sometimes,” de Haan said. “It took the wind out of their sails pretty quickly and we had a good second period for the rest of the period I thought.
“It was definitely a big part of the game.”
Dach extended Chicago’s lead early in the third with his third goal of the season, when the 18-year-old knocked his own rebound past Fleury, who stopped 21 shots but dropped to 10-6-4 against Chicago.
Strome beat Fleury over his glove with a little more than three minutes left to make it 5-2. Nate Schmidt closed the scoring with 1:01 to go.
It marked the third straight home game the Golden Knights squandered a lead, as they dropped to 4-4-2 in their own arena this season.
“Right now it’s not putting the whole game together,” Schmidt said. “We have spurts of the game where I feel like we dominated the game tonight, and then not have the resolve to keep going if something bad happens. To give up two goals, it takes the wind out of our sails.”
NOTES: Since opening the season 6-3-0, the Golden Knights are mired in a 3-5-3 slide. … The game marked former Golden Knight Ryan Carpenter’s first at T-Mobile Arena since signing with Chicago after spending two seasons with the Golden Knights. Carpenter got his sixth assist on Dach’s goal. … Slater Koekkoek was a healthy scratch for Chicago, and Drake Caggiula is in concussion protocol. … After registering a point in 13 of the first 15 games, Vegas’ Mark Stone has been held pointless in five straight. … Jonathan Toews move into a tie for 10th in franchise history with 891 games played for Chicago.
Blackhawks: At the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
Golden Knights: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.