MONTREAL — Another incredible performance by Corey Crawford in his hometown has seriously hurt Montreal's playoff chances down the stretch.
Crawford stopped all 48 shots he faced as the surging Chicago Blackhawks blanked the struggling Canadiens 2-0 on Saturday night.
The Montreal-born Crawford earned his second shutout of the season and improved to 9-2-2 all-time versus the Canadiens.
"That's a big win for us against a team that's close to being in the playoffs," said Crawford, whose 48-save outing was a career high in the regular season. "They need points too. We kept them to the outside for the most part. Our penalty kill was solid."
Crawford has never lost in regulation time in his hometown (5-0-2). He's won his last five games at the Bell Centre.
"I grew up a huge Habs fan when I was younger so it's always exciting to come back and play in this building," said Crawford, who faced 18 shots in the third period alone. "It's nice to get a win coming back here."
Montreal's playoff chances are dwindling in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens (37-28-7) are three points out of the second wild-card spot with 10 games remaining in the season — five of those are on the road.
The Carolina Hurricanes are in the first wild-card spot with 85 points, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canadiens, who have dropped four of their past five games, are on the outside looking in with 81 points.
"Our backs are against the wall," said captain Shea Weber. "We have to find a way to win. Everyone is frustrated. We want to win and we're not winning, so it's tough.
"We have to find a way to score goals."
Saturday's contest was a battle of goaltenders, with Crawford getting the better of his counterpart Carey Price, who stopped 22-of-24 shots in defeat.
Crawford needed to be on his game, with Montreal generating high-quality scoring chances in close all night long.
The Chicago goalie denied four different Canadiens players in an 18-second span in the first period, stopping a flurry of shots from Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Max Domi and then Tomas Tatar.
Midway through the second, Crawford made perhaps his best save of the encounter when he robbed Artturi Lehkonen in close with a windmill glove save.
It was more of the same in the third, with Crawford stopping Joel Armia from point-blank range to preserve Chicago's two-goal lead with nine minutes left in the game.
Byron came closest to beating the Hawks netminder when his second-period shot rang off the crossbar.
"We were digging and we were getting in front," said fourth-liner Jordan Weal, who had the second-most ice time among Canadiens forwards. "It was one of those nights where we couldn't put one past the goal line. It's frustrating because every game right now is so huge.
"We were generating a lot. We were hitting posts. We were hitting crossbars. We were millimetres away. If we play like that here on out, we have a good chance to win."
Connor Murphy scored the game's first goal 3:04 into the second period. The defenceman took a pass from Dylan Strome in his skates, kicked the puck onto his stick, and beat Price from the slot high glove-side.
Brendan Perlini made it 2-0 at 4:49 of the third period on a nice give-and-go with teammate Alex DeBrincat.
The Blackhawks (32-30-9) have won five in a row.
The game featured Montreal's league-worst power play against Chicago's NHL-worst penalty kill. The Hawks came out on top, with the Canadiens going 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
"It's desperation time," said Price. "It's about trying to keep that positive attitude. Negativity isn't going to help us at all. We have to keep driving."
Notes: The Canadiens celebrated Price's franchise record-setting 315th career victory in a pre-game ceremony. … Montreal was coming off a tough 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press