BOSTON – Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored goals 17 seconds apart Monday as the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion with an amazing 3-2 last-minute comeback victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 6.
Milan Lucic's third-period goal had seemed to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory and a new lease of life in the final.
But with Chicago goalie Corey Crawford out for an extra attacker, Bickell tied it up at 18:44 after Jonathan Toews circled out of the corner when Boston was unable to clear the puck. With two teammates waiting for him in front of goal, Toews chose Bickell and the game was suddenly tied.
Bolland then won the Cup seconds after the puck drop, tucking in a rebound of a Johnny Oduya point shot that hit the goal-post. Bolland nipped between two defenders to redirect the puck in at 19:01 to stun the Bruins and previously raucous crowd at TD Garden.
Toews, reduced to a spectator the final minutes of Game 5, added a goal and an assist for Chicago as the Blackhawks clawed their way back into the game. The captain was the first to hoist the Cup as his teammates jumped up and down.
Crawford finished with 23 saves in the victory that marked Chicago's fifth championship and second in four years.
“That team in 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing,” Toews said. “We played great hockey, and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing. This time around we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here, and this is an unbelievable group.
“We've been through a lot together this year, and this is a sweet way to finish it off.”
Chris Kelly had the other goal for Boston, while Tuukka Rask made 28 saves. The Bruins offence was limited by a power play that went 0-for-4 on the night.
Lucic had taken advantage of a Crawford handling error behind the goal to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 12:11. The bruising forward disrupted the Chicago goalie and when the puck came back in front from David Krejci in the corner, Lucic wristed it in.
The Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011, had their way with the Blackhawks in the first period, but only managed to turn that dominance into a 1-0 lead. Chicago rallied in the second to tie it up and make a contest out of it before completing the memorable comeback.
Tied 1-1 going into the third, the game was up for grabs. And the stakes were high, ratcheting up the pressure for the capacity crowd of 17,565—Boston's 165th straight sellout.
It made for a fast-placed third period, with both teams getting chances in what felt like overtime. A lot of hearts were in throats as pucks flew through the crease or just missed sticks.
Both goalies—Rask for Boston and Crawford for Chicago—were in the zone. They never really left it during a series where goals were hard to come by most nights.
Both teams endured a bumpy ride to get to Game 6. There were question marks over the health of Chicago's Toews and Boston star Patrice Bergeron.
The players also had to contend with searing summer heat in the low 30s that did little for the ice. It was warmer in Beantown than Libya. A thin layer of fog was visible over the ice as the Bruins started their morning skate over some bumpy ice.
Monday matched the deepest the Stanley Cup playoffs have stretched into the summer. New Jersey capped its sweep of Detroit on June 24, 1995, in the last lockout-shortened season.
The last time the Cup was presented on Boston ice was in 1990 when John Muckler's Edmonton Oilers defeated Mike Milbury's Bruins four games to one. Craig Simpson, who was in CBC's commentary booth for the 2013 final, scored the winning goal. Milbury is a studio analyst for NBC.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was once again booed after the game. Chicago sniper Patrick Kane won the Conn Smythe award as playoff MVP.
The final, the first to feature Original Six teams since Montreal defeated the New York Rangers in 1979, did not disappoint.
There were three overtime games and plenty of drama as the speed and skill of Chicago was matched against the hard-hitting Bruins who balanced talent with truculence. But in truth, both teams had a bit of everything including clutch goaltending and a high pain threshold.
Chicago's Marian Hossa and Boston's Nathan Horton were just two of those who were playing hurt.
If Chicago is a sleek Porsche, Boston is a muscle car. Both have power, but one was built to give and take some more knocks.
Going into Game 6, Chicago led in shots (204-175) and goals (14-13). Boston had the edge in hits (237-176).
Chicago, with a full-season salary tab of US$79.8 million, ranked fourth in the league in payroll. Boston was eighth at $73.2.
The Blackhawks become the first team in the salary cap era to win the Cup twice.
Chicago also won the Cup in 2010, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. Given the Hawks' recent success, it is easy to forget that the 2010 championship was the first for Chicago since 1961—at the time the league's longest active Stanley Cup drought.
The franchise had to shed players in the wake of that Cup run because of salary cap issues. But once again it finds itself celebrating on enemy ice, thanks to GM Stan Bowman's refreshing of the roster.
Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell, Ben Eager, Tomas Kopecky, Andrew Ladd, John Madden, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg all moved on after the 2010 Cup win.
Boston, meanwhile, seemed to run out of weapons in the final.
Krejci had nine goals and 12 assists in the first three rounds of the playoffs but only managed two assists in the first five games of the final. That was two more points than Brad Marchand, who led the team in scoring this season.
Tyler Seguin, fourth on the team in scoring during the season, was 11th on the team going into Monday's game with one playoff goal and six assists.
It said something that going into Game 6 defencemen had scored 17 of Boston's 63 goals (27.0 per cent), the most among all playoff clubs.
And Chicago seemed to have solved Bruins beanpole Zdeno Chara. The Bruins captain was on the ice for eight of the nine Chicago goals in the Hawks' Game 4 and 5 wins.
The game had Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attention.
“Original 6/Game 6 – fans like us can't lose,” he tweeted prior to the game.
After falling victim to several Chicago fast starts, Boston came out buzzing and soon had the Hawks on their heels.
Hard work paid off for the Bruins' third line as Kelly won a faceoff in Chicago's defensive end and the Bruins kept the puck in. Seguin batted the puck down out of the air and passed over to Kelly, who snapped a shot past Crawford before the goalie could slide across the crease. Kelly's second goal of the playoffs came at 7:19.
With 4:01 remaining in the period, Chicago's Andrew Shaw went down after taking a Shawn Thornton shot to the face. That required workers to clean blood off the ice, while Shaw needed repairs of his own.
The fast-paced game was taking its toll. Jaromir Jagr played just three minutes three seconds of the first period with Rich Peverley taking his place alongside Marchand and Bergeron. Jagr returned for the second period, took one shift then headed back to the dressing room, with Seguin filling in.
The first period was all Boston, who led the shot attempts category 32-8.
The Bruins outshot Chicago 12-6 and won 17 faceoffs to the Hawks' seven. They also outhit Chicago 16-13. It could have been worse but the Blackhawks blocked 13 shots to the Bruins' one.
Still it was only 1-0 on the scoreboard. And that soon changed.
Toews tied it up at 4:24 of the second period with his third of the post-season, winning a faceoff and then—after Michael Rozsival chipped the puck ahead—beating Chara down the boards before swooping in to rifle a shot past Rask at 4:24.
To make matters worse, the goal came at the end of a Boston power play—the exact second that a Shaw roughing penalty expired as the Blackhawks killed off their fourth penalty of the game.
It was Toews' second goal in his last three outings, equalling his total from his prior 22 playoff contests. For Chara, it meant he had been on the ice for nine of Chicago's last 10 goals.
But it was Chara to the rescue later in the period on a Chicago power play, clearing the puck away with Rask out of position after a pair of saves and Kane ready to stuff the rebound in.
Chicago outshot Boston 9-6 in the second period. And the Hawks were working hard to limit the Bruins chances, leading 20-4 in blocked shots after two periods.
Bergeron, clearly not 100 per cent, won three of seven faceoffs in the first 40 minutes.
Jagr was back on the bench to start the third period and returned to the ice.
The Hawks—who also won the Cup in 1934, 1938 and 1961—opened the lockout-shortened season with a statement, picking up at least a point in 24 straight outings.
Colorado won 6-2 on March 8 to end the streak. Chicago had won 11 in a row and were unbeaten in regulation in 30 straight games (24-0-6) dating to last season.
Prior to the defeat at the hands of the Avalanche, the last regulation loss for the Blackhawks was a 6-1 home defeat to the Nashville Predators almost a year before.
Only the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers (25-0-10) have enjoyed a longer unbeaten NHL run. They did it in an era before regular season overtime.
Chicago finished the regular season with 36-7-5 record to lead the league. Boston was 15 points behind, in fifth spot overall in the league.
The Blackhawks become the first Presidents' Trophy winner to win the Cup since the Red Wings did it in 2008.
The Bruins finished with a 28-14-6 record, winning just two of their last nine in an end-of-season schedule disrupted by the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
In the playoffs, the Chicago dispatched Minnesota (4-1), Detroit (4-3, a series they trailed 3-1) and Los Angeles (4-1).
Boston survived the Toronto Maple Leafs, barely (4-3, mounting a historic three-goal comeback in the third period of Game 7 to win in OT), the New York Rangers (4-1) and Pittsburgh (4-0).