CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks lost No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford to a lower-body injury three weeks ago, forcing the Stanley Cup champions to hand the net over to an untested rookie from Finland.
The Blackhawks had no idea what they had in Antti Raanta. They hoped for the best, and they got it.
Raanta made 26 saves in his first NHL shutout, Brandon Saad scored in the first period, and Chicago beat Los Angeles 1-0 on Monday night, sending the Kings to their first three-game losing streak in nearly a year.
“There was only one goal for us, so I knew if we wanted to win the game, I had to stop all the pucks,” Raanta said. “I thought about it maybe the last two or three minutes.”
With Crawford nearing a return, Raanta improved to 10-1-3 while bouncing back from one of his worst performances. He allowed two late goals in Chicago’s 6-5 shootout loss at St. Louis on Saturday.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was non-committal when asked about the team’s goalies after Crawford returns. But it is hard to imagine Raanta returning to the minors after the impressive start to this NHL career.
“It’s a nice situation,” Quenneville said. “He really, really helped solidify something that looked a little bit concerning at that time.”
Saad scored his sixth goal in his last 11 games. Chicago, which leads the NHL with 158 goals, played its lowest-scoring game since a 2-1 shootout win at Dallas on Nov. 29.
Los Angeles’ Martin Jones made 29 saves in his second straight loss after beginning his career with eight consecutive wins, tying the NHL record.
The Kings, who have yielded a league-low 80 goals, played a tough, physical game after losses to Dallas and Nashville. But they are on their first three-game slide since dropping the opening three games of last season in January.
“We had our chances. They had some chances,” Kings centre Mike Richards said. “We just didn’t capitalize on our looks at the net.”
Chicago forward Patrick Kane had a career-best point streak snapped at 14 games. He had eight goals and 17 assists in the surge.
Last season’s Western Conference finalists faced off for the second time this season. The Blackhawks scored three first-period goals, and Raanta made 21 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Kings on Dec. 15.
Raanta lost his shutout chance in that one when Kings defenceman Alec Martinez scored with 3:54 remaining.
This time, he finished the job.
Raanta faced his biggest test in the second period when Dustin Brown made a strong charge to the net. The 24-year-old Finn turned away the rush by the Kings captain, and then stopped him again when he was awarded a penalty shot.
“It’s nice to have a great 60 minutes,” Raanta said. “Last game in St. Louis, it wasn’t so great the last three minutes, so it’s nice to bounce back like this.”
Anze Kopitar also had a chance in front of Chicago’s net with 2 minutes to go, but Raanta was there when the centre tried to stuff the puck into the net.
The Kings had a couple of chances to stop the Blackhawks’ scoring chance that produced the only goal.
Bryan Bickell’s pass to Saad went off the stick of Los Angeles defenceman Matt Greene, and Richards had an opportunity to knock away the puck before Saad flipped it in at 7:05 for his 14th goal.
“It was just a broken play, and their guy was able to pick up the loose puck,” Jones said. “I mean that’s the difference in the hockey game right there, a broken play like that. The little things make a big difference.”
The Blackhawks appeared to have a second goal in the third, but Andrew Shaw’s tip-in was waved off because his stick was above his shoulders.
NOTES: Brown’s penalty shot was Los Angeles’ first this season and the sixth against the Blackhawks. … Crawford participated in the morning skate, but didn’t play. He has missed 10 games. … Kane is the only NHL player with multiple point streaks of at least 10 games. … The Kings scratched Martinez and forwards Daniel Carcillo and Matt Frattin. … The Blackhawks also scratched defencemen Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank. … The teams will meet once more on Feb. 3 in Los Angeles.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap