They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

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They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Updated: 2:59 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Daylong showers postponed a Philadelphia Phillies game, displaced the Flyers' pregame "block party" and dampened orange-clad fans' spirits.

But they did herald the end of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL, as the Chicago Blackhawks ended their 49-year ringless reign with a 4-3 overtime win over Philadelphia.

Patrick Kane had the game-winner at 4:06 of overtime, surely the most puzzlingly gorgeous Cup-clincher in Stanley Cup history. As players on both teams began to drag after 64 minutes of grueling, fast-paced action, Crazy 88 turned on the afterburners to turn the corner and thread the needle on a shot for the win that, short of Kane, none of the 20,327 at the Wachovia Center realized had gone in.

"I don't think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold it pretty good if the puck didn't go in," Blackhawks captain -- and 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- Jonathan Toews said. "But it was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do."

"We kind of stood there on the bench, until we saw Kane toss his gloves," Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer said. "Then one guy threw his leg over the wall, and we were off."

In back of the bench, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville knew the goal to be true.

"I heard the sound, it was a funny sound," Cool Hand Q said. "Nobody knew where the puck was. Kaner thought it was in ... and the guys knew. That's why they celebrated. When I saw the net lift and the puck in the back, I said, 'OK, the party is on.'"

In a breathless, back-and-forth affair, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd scored for Chicago, while Antti Niemi stopped an increasingly difficult 21 shots to earn his franchise-record 16th postseason win.

The Blackhawks opened the game with excruciating pressure on Philadelphia, garnering the better scoring chances and pelting Flyers goalie Michael Leighton with five shots in the first four minutes. And Chicago missed its best chance early on when Duncan Keith clanged a slapper off the iron and Toews whiffed on a wide-open rebound.

With regard to penalties, the only whistles of the first came on Brents and Prongers: Blackhawk Sopel earned two interference penalties, teammate Seabrook an elbow, and on the flip side two Prongs penalties rounded things out. Little damage came of the first three -- in fact, Philadelphia failed to record a shot on goal during its first two power plays. But with Pronger boxed for the second time, Byfuglien camped in the crease and notched the first goal of the game -- making it two straight contests scoring a power-play goal with the 6-foot-6 Philly menace in the pen. But when Iron Giant was sent off for the second time with less than a minute left in the first, Scott Hartnell got the Blackhawks back after cashing the disc in from the crease to tie the game at 1.

After a breathless first, fans wouldn't have been wrong for expecting that the second stanza would be a slowdown affair. But such was not the case, as just 30 seconds in Simon Gagne was stoned on a breakaway by Niemi. Some three minutes later, Ladd broke loose and was busted by Leighton.

Twelve minutes in, superscorer Danny Briere got loose deep on a two-on-one to beat Niemi, a play precipitated by Keith getting tripped up by Hartnell, creating a vacuum on the Blackhawks blue line. A couple of minutes later, Keith exacted revenge during a four-on-four, feeding Sharp for a soft goal to knot the game back up again.

With just two and a half minutes left in the second, Niklas Hjalmarsson would up with a master-blaster that Ladd timed perfectly and tipped past Leighton, and with a back-breaking goal late, Chicago went up, 3-2.

The third period proceeded just as frenetically as the first 40 minutes of the game, and with time running short and Philadelphia's desperation increasing, Niemi made a number of Cup-saving stops. But with 3:59 remaining, Hartnell continued his Blackhawks-killing ways with his second goal of the game, and again the game was knotted.

After Hartnell's score, momentum had flipped completely for Philly, winning faceoffs and forcing the Blackhawks into successive icings. With two minutes left, Niemi stopped a final flurry, punctuated by a save on Mike Richards that was accomplished by diving forward with his face.

"I don't think he would havethrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold itpretty good if the puck didn't go in. But it was kind of an awkwardcelebration. We didn't know what todo."-- Jonathan Toews, on Patrick Kane'sStanley Cup-clinching goal inovertimeIt was almost as if the rookie netminder was trying to reinsert himself into the Conn Smythe picture, as his noggin block produced audible gasps in the crowd. For the unflappable Finn, it was just another save at the office.

"My team played good in front of me," Niemi said. "Of course, at the end it was getting pretty tricky. You're tired and playing just with feel then and hoping the puck won't go in. I'm happy my head stopped Richards."

All the momentum had flipped Philly's way, in front of a home crowd not only wearing giveaway orangewear but fully slipping on the Cinderella galosh. A lesser team -- a team willing to shrink outta Pennsylvania tied 3-3 and encounter 48 hours of jibba-jabba before a back-against-wall Game 7 -- would have folded.

Not your Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. In the dressing room after regulation ended, the room was characteristically quiet. But there was still a message to share.

"We just said that someone has to get that feeling," Toews said. "Someone has to be the hero."

In overtime, Richards and Claude Giroux put heavy pressure on Niemi just 20 seconds in. Philadelphia continued pressing, forcing Brent Seabrook to make a diving, game-saving poke check on a breakaway shortly after to preserve the contest.

"At that point, you've just got to do what it takes," said the heavy-hitting d-man. "You're not worried about dead legs or injury -- you have to stop the puck."

Seabrook's blue line partner, Keith, who was a Conn Smythe finalist for reasons not the least of which were seven lost chiclets during the game that clinched a Cup berth for Chicago, said his dental surgery was well worth it, and added, "We all sacrificed. Our team effort is always huge. Tonight was the biggest, and when you're going for the Cup, that's just how it's supposed to work out."

Kane, a youngster still shy of kindergarten the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals, turned out to the hero his teammates sought before overtime.

"I can't believe this just happened," Kane said. "It's something you dream of as a kid, to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just -- it was unbelievable."

Pretty much sums it up for the thousands of revelers who took to the streets, honking horns, high-fiving and pulling on their redwear to celebrate a first in most of our lifetimes.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

After the Blackhawks went up 4-1 midway through the second on Panik's goal, Tampa Bay tied it at 4 on Drouin's goals and one by Stralman in a 4:39 span.

Chicago took a 3-1 lead after the first period on goals by Panarin, Kane and Jurco. Palat, playing in his 300th NHL game, had the Tampa Bay goal.

Palat and Drouin's second goal came on power plays after Chicago was penalized for delay of game after shooting the puck over the glass.

The Blackhawks have the 24th ranked short-handed unit in the NHL.

Nikita Kucherov had two assists to set a Tampa Bay record for points in a single month with 22. The right wing has four assists and 11 points during a five-game point streak.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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