Blackhawks

Crawford Solid In Return To Net, Hawks Beat Montreal 5-1

Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on December 21, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on December 21, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (AP) — Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp scored 21 seconds apart midway through the second period, and Corey Crawford made 20 saves in his first start in more than two weeks as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Viktor Stalberg scored midway through the third period and Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell added late goals for NHL-leading Chicago. The Blackhawks rebounded from a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, improving to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

Andrei Kostitsyn scored a power-play goal for Montreal, which lost its fourth straight — including the last three since interim coach Randy Cunneyworth replaced Jacques Martin last Saturday.

Crawford hadn’t played since being pulled early in the second period of a 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix on Dec. 5 after allowing three goals on 16 shots. Backup Ray Emery finished that game, then made six consecutive starts and won five straight before losing to the Penguins.

Montreal backup Peter Budaj blocked 23 shots in his first start since Nov. 30. Carey Price had started the Canadiens’ previous nine contests.

Neither team sustained much offensive pressure in the scoreless first period. Chicago’s Duncan Keith hit the right post with a shot from the point midway through the frame.

Kostitsyn’s power-play goal, on a deflection from just outside the crease, opened the scoring at 5:35 of the second. Kostitisyn tipped Tomas Plekanec’s low shot from the right circle upward, off Crawford’s shoulder and into the net.

Chicago took a 2-1 lead on goals scored on consecutive shots midway through the second.

Brunette was credited with tying it at 1 with 8:24 left in the period as his centering pass to Toews struck Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban’s skate and deflected past Budaj.

Sharp’s 18th goal made it 2-1 with 8:03 left. After skating into the Montreal zone on a 2-on-2 break, Sharp’s shot hit the stick of defenseman Chris Campoli, who had belly-flopped to the ice. The puck fluttered past Budaj on the glove side.

Sharp has points in nine of his last 10 games, and eight goals and six assists in the span.

Stalberg extended Chicago’s lead to 3-1 midway through the third. After Subban turned the puck over to Bickell behind the Montreal net, Bickell fed it to Stalberg, who beat Budaj on a high shot from between the circles.

Toews scored his 20th goal into an empty net with 1:17 left to make it 4-1. Bickell scored with 11.8 seconds left to complete the scoring.

NOTES: Chicago’s Marian Hossa had an assist to extend his point streak to seven games. He has four goals and eight assists in the span. . Blackhawks LW Dan Carcillo sat out his fourth game with upper-body injury and was placed on IR on Wednesday. C Marcus Kruger sat out after taking a hit to the head from Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland in a game on Tuesday night. Both Carcillo and Kruger are believed to have post-concussion symptoms. . The Blackhawks recalled C Brandon Pirri from Rockford of the AHL on Wednesday to take Kruger’s roster spot. . Montreal’s Brian Gionta (lower body) missed his sixth game and Scott Gomez (lower body) missed his 13th. . The game was the only regular-season contest between Montreal and Chicago. The two “Original Six” teams have not played more than once in a season since 2001-02.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)