CHICAGO – No matter what goalie the Chicago Blackhawks put into their net, they are coming away with win after win.
Corey Crawford completed the task to perfection on Sunday night as he made Andrew Shaw’s goal stand up in a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets that stretched the Blackhawks’ NHL-record, season-opening point streak to 18 games.
The Blackhawks are 15-0-3 and show no signs of slowing down.
Crawford earned his seventh NHL shutout and second this season in his first start since Feb. 12. He outdueled Columbus’ Steve Mason, who stopped 26 shots including some sensational point-blank chances.
“I’m seeing the puck well,” said Crawford (8-0-3). “Everyone is doing their job, chipping in. It makes it a lot easier for me.”
“Overall I felt good.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville thought Crawford looked just fine in his return, too.
“He was quick,” Quenneville said. “(He was) big, especially on the side-to-side plays on the power play. He tracked the puck well, looked like he wasn’t off for any time at all.
“He had a couple extras days there, got ready. A great response.”
Crawford had been sidelined after he sustained an upper-body injury in a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim on Feb. 12. Ray Emery started and won four games in his absence.
Crawford had returned to the lineup as Emery’s backup on Friday when the Blackhawks set the NHL record with at least one point in the first 17 games of a season with a 2-1 win over San Jose. That topped the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, who started 12-0-4.
Shaw provided all the offence in the second period on Sunday for the Blackhawks, who have earned 33 of 36 possible points.
The Blackhawks also improved to 9-0-3 in games decided by one goal.
“We’re playing the score” Quenneville said. “We’re playing to win. Being on the right side of pucks in a game like today was a good test for us.
“They work hard. It’s the type of game you make sure you don’t try to manufacture things. We took too many penalties, but got better as the game went on.”
Chicago has won nine straight against Columbus, dating to Feb. 18, 2011.
The 18-game point streak is also a team record for the Blackhawks, who have only lost in shootouts this season.
The Blue Jackets (5-12-2), who have an NHL-low 12 points, went 0-for-5 on the power play. Mason kept the game close as he started for the first time in over a week.
He had been on the bench the past three games while Sergei Bobrovsky started.
“I felt good,” Mason said. “I had about a week’s worth of practice to get ready for this game.
“We knew it was going to be a big one with them being the only undefeated team in the NHL. We would have liked to have come in and ended that streak, but that didn’t happen.”
The Blackhawks dominated territorially and in puck possession through the first two periods, but only managed to get one shot past the Blue Jackets goalie.
Both teams had a handful of scoring chances in the first period. Mason made a point-blank pad save on Marian Hossa with 8:30 left, and Crawford stopped Derick Brassard from the slot two minutes later.
Mason denied Hossa on a breakaway 5:30 into the second after Hossa stole the puck from James Wisniewski at the Columbus blue line.
The Blue Jackets failed to convert several close-in attempts during a power-play late in the second, including when Vinny Prospal’s shot hit the crossbar to cap a breakaway.
Shaw finally broke through with 1:27 left in the second from the low edge of the left circle. He took Bryan Bickell’s backhanded feed from the back boards and ripped a high one-timed shot that beat Mason high on the stick side.
“He saw me coming,” Shaw said. “But I wasn’t sure, so I gave him a holler and he put it in a perfect area.”
Mason made a point-blank pad save on Patrick Kane midway through the third period after Kane made a spectacular spin move and cut across the crease alone.
NOTES: The Ducks went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2007. … Blackhawks C Dave Bolland missed the game because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. … Columbus went 1-5 on its six-game road trip. ..The Blue Jackets placed D Jack Johnson (upper-body), on the injured list on Sunday. C Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and C Artem Anisimov (upper body) were also out.