Hawks relieved to put skid to rest

NEW YORK -- His sigh said it all.

Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was asked after his team’s 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday if much maligned goaltender Corey Crawford needed the win.

“We all needed it,” Quenneville said exhaling.

That’s a statement that applies to every player, coach and fan alike. Jan. 20 against the Florida Panthers was the last time Hawks felt the thrill of victory. An All-Star break and 10 games later, they finally felt it again.

“Haven’t had many regular season wins that felt as good as that,” Quenneville said smiling.

In a locker room full of happy and relieved players and coaches, it may have been Quenneville and Crawford who were most at peace after the long sought after win.

“It felt good but whatever was done before was done before,” Crawford said. “There was nothing we could do thinking about that. The feeling after was more about how well we played and the way we played. To see how good they played in front of me. We have to continue that.”

Crawford gave up just two goals, the first time a Hawks’ netminder had allowed less than three since that Florida game. And his comments echoed a second theme in the room after the win. Happiness for the moment was followed by a desire to keep it going.

“We have to keep digging ourselves out of the hole,” Jonathan Toews said. “We can’t be comfortable with this win for one second. We have to go right in the next one and play harder than the last.”

Toews set the tone for the night with a rare penalty shot goal just a minute into the game. The Hawks have been looking -- and sometimes waiting --for a break during the losing streak and they finally got one.

Dan Girardi closed his glove on the puck in the Rangers’ crease and the referees saw it. That was break No.1. Break No. 2 was Toews being on the ice when it happened. The Hawks can choose who shoots the penalty shot from whomever is on the ice at the time of the call. Toews is the best at it on the team. Break No. 3 was scoring, but that was a break made by the Hawks captain.

“I try not to think about it in the moment but it’s a huge situation for us,” he said. “If I don’t score on that one the feeling on the bench and maybe to myself would be ‘what do we have to do to score.’ We followed up with four or five big shifts after that.”

And three more goals in the opening 20 minutes. It was 4-0 before the first television timeout and the Hawks never looked back.

“It gets annoying because sometimes you play hard and you don’t get the win so it’s hard to explain,” Duncan Keith said of the previous nine games. “There isn’t much you can say. But it was nice to get the win tonight.”

With a resounding win on the big stage of New York against the best team in the league, maybe the Hawks rid their mental demons all in one night. Even with a nice lead late in the game, doubts can start to creep in.

“When they score that second goal to make it 4-2 and you’re in a nine game stretch you start questioning yourself but we stuck together,” Patrick Sharp said.

Maybe the questions can end. Questions about Quenneville and questions about the defense, which has come up big over the last two games. And if the questions about Crawford subside the Hawks might really be in business.

“What we went through, we never want to come back here again,” Quenneville said.

Just ask any player, coach or fan. They’d agree.