PHILADELPHIA – The long Stanley Cup drought is over for the Chicago Blackhawks, but the pain continues for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Patrick Kane’s laser goal in overtime ended the longest active title drought in the NHL as the Blackhawks beat the Flyers 4-3 and hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.
Kane’s goal went in so quickly the goal judge didn’t turn on the red light. After a brief review, the Blackhawks were finally awarded the Cup.
“I knew it went in right away,” Kane said. “What a feeling. I can’t believe it. We just won the Stanley Cup. I can’t believe this just happened. … It’s something you dream about, scoring the final goal in the Stanley Cup finals.”
The Flyers, who had been so impressive at home throughout the playoffs, will have to wait until next year for a chance to end their string of seasons without a title. The Flyers haven’t sipped champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug since winning the second of back-to-back titles in 1975.
“It’s tough right now,” forward Jeff Carter said. “In the long run, everyone should be proud of what we did this year. We overcame a lot of adversity.”
Still, Chicago’s win does not place the mantle of longest Cup drought on the Flyers. That dubious distinction belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven’t won it all since 1967.
The Flyers came from out of nowhere to make the Cup final. They were the last team to earn a playoff berth and finished seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
But they were buoyed by their vocal, orange-clad fans and the return of star forwards Simon Gagne and Carter, and with huge defenceman Chris Pronger causing headaches for opposing forwards they managed to fight their way to a meeting with the Blackhawks. They even improbably came back from a 3-0 deficit against Boston in the second round.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, were expected to make a deep playoff run. Led by young superstars Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks finished second in the Western Conference behind the San Jose Sharks.
After wins over Nashville in the first round and Vancouver in the second, the Blackhawks then swept the Sharks in the conference final.
Toews was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. The 22-year-old Chicago captain had 29 points in the playoffs, just one shy of Philadelphia forward Danny Briere.
“This team put on one heckuva run,” Toews said. “We knew from Day One of the season this team had the potential of our goal. It’s just an amazing feeling right now.”
It was Toews’ second piece of hardware this year. He was also a huge part of Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the Vancouver Olympics.
Despite coming up short, Philadelphia had to be impressed with the play of rookie forward Ville Leino. He had 21 points in 19 playoff games after managing just 11 in 55 games over the regular season.