CHICAGO | The Blackhawks’ slump-busting 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night was marred by the first-period departure of starting goalie Corey Crawford due to an apparent leg injury.
Soon after the Hawks scored a pair of power play goals, Crawford was pulled in favor of rookie Antti Raanta, who went on to record the win allowing a pair of second-period goals.
Favoring his right leg, Crawford was helped off the ice with 6:15 remaining in the first after kicking away a shot by Marcel Goc.
“I don’t think it’s too serious,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll have a better assessment (today).”
Raanta drew praise from his teammates for his poise in a near-emergency.
“I just tried to get my mind in the game and get focused to the right thing,” Raanta said.
He said he’s ready to assume the starting job if Crawford is lost for a significant period of time.
“Of course,” Rannta said. “That’s the job I came here to do.”
Later, the Hawks dodged a bullet when former teammate Jimmy Hayes elbowed Raanta in the head midway through the third period, knocking off the goalie’s helmet as he fell to the ice. Fortunately for the Hawks, Raanta got up, apparently unscathed.
The Hawks benched briefly stirred with the just-returned Andrew Shaw joking he’d put on the pads if Raanta could not continue.
“Sometimes those things just happen,” Raanta said. “Jimmy came to apologize.”
The Hawks’ challenge was to maintain focus without their star goalie.
“We’ll take the two points and evaluate (Crawford),’” forward Patrick Sharp said.
Crawford’s injury could not come at a worse time for the Hawks’ goalie depth, with Raanta just getting his feet wet in the NHL as the backup. Raanta was called up in mid-November to replace 40-year-old veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, out long-term with a lower-body injury.
Crawford’s injury more than canceled out the return of third-line center Shaw, injured when was slammed into the boards in Tuesday night’s loss to the Dallas Stars.
Shaw scored an insurance goal in the third period, and was on the ice when Sharp opened the scoring in the first period on a slapper from in front of the blue line.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook then connected on the second power-play score amid a four-minute man advantage midway through the first.
Marian Hossa gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead with seconds elapsed in the second. He potted in a rebound of a Sharp shot for his 13th goal.
Ex-Hawk Dylan Olsen and Goc quickly put the Panthers back into the game against Raanta with scores early in the second. Then, Michael Handzus slipped another rebound by Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen near the end of the period to make it 4-2.