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Crawford shuts out defending champs for first NHL win

(AP) — Rookie Corey Crawford got his first start this season for the Chicago Blackhawks and played like a seasoned veteran.

Crawford stopped 19 shots to earn his first career NHL win and shutout, leading the Blackhawks past the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 on Wednesday night.

"The guys played awesome tonight," the 23-year-old Crawford said. "They didn’t get any second shots and I saw the puck the whole game."

Crawford is 24-15-5 with two shutouts in 46 games for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs this season.

Dustin Byfuglien and Cam Barker, who like Crawford have both played in Rockford this season, each had power-play goals and an assist, and 2005 Calder Cup champion Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks, who won their third straight and ended Anaheim’s six-game winning streak.

The Blackhawks, 8-3-0 in their last 11, continued a trend of tight defensive and physical play. Did they play even harder for Crawford?

"I don’t know about that," Barker said. "I think he had a great game, regardless. I thought he played the puck well, and for a rookie goalie to do that, I think it spoke volumes about how good he did."

Crawford made just his second career start and fifth NHL appearance. He had been recalled from Rockford on Feb. 22 after Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago’s No. 1 goalie, was sidelined with back spasms.

Since joining the Blackhawks, Crawford had played just 44 minutes in relief of Patrick Lalime in two games before Wednesday’s start. Lalime, normally Chicago’s backup, had made seven straight starts with Khabibulin out.

Crawford learned two days ago that he would start against Anaheim. Chicago played its second game in two nights, and Lalime made 28 saves in a 4-2 win at Minnesota on Tuesday.

"He played a heck of a game for us," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "He knew this game was coming up a couple of days ago. It was important for him to prepare so he could be relaxed. He looked relaxed to me."

That Crawford faced the defending Stanley Cup champions made little difference.

"You can’t look at it like that or you give them too much respect," he said. "The two points, that’s huge against a team like that."

Chicago outshot Anaheim 14-3 in the first period and held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Byfuglien opened the scoring 7:07 in, knocking in a rebound from the crease. Giguere made a pad save on Cam Barker‘s one-time shot from the left side of the crease, but Byfuglien slid in the loose puck.

Crawford faced only a handful of routine shots until late in the second. He made a shoulder save on Scott Niedermayer’s shot from the slot with 2:20 left. During a Ducks power play, Crawford stopped Teemu Selanne’s initial shot, then Ryan Getzlaf‘s rebound attempt from close range with about five seconds remaining.

Barker was credited with making it 2-0 at 9:01 of the third. His shot from the right point was screened by Byfuglien and appeared to deflect in off him. Sharp was credited with a goal with 1:31 left to make it 3-0. He was hooked from behind by Pronger while trying to shoot at an empty Anaheim net with Giguere on the bench for an extra attacker.