CHICAGO – Arron Asham scored with just over a minute left in the second period to pull the Philadelphia Flyers into a 5-5 tie with the Chicago Blackhawks in a wild Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night.
Troy Brouwer scored two goals for Chicago, including one late in the second that gave them a short-lived 5-4 lead and chased goalie Michael Leighton, who was coming off three shutouts in a five-game Eastern Conference finals win over Montreal.
Brouwer’s second goal came at the 15:18 mark when Marian Hossa passed out to him from behind the net. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette decided he had seen enough and put in Brian Boucher, who had missed seven games with injuries to his knees, but that didn’t stop the siege.
The Blackhawks are trying to win it all for the first time since 1961, while the Flyers haven’t won since the second of back-to-back titles in 1975.
Both teams spent no time feeling each other out. They were racing up and down the ice, swapping goals like they were trading cards.
Asham’s goal—his fourth of the playoffs—came on a one-timer with 1:11 in the period, after Hossa gave it away on the other end.
Ville Leino opened the scoring at 6:38, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The Blackhawks answered just 1:12 later when Brouwer scored on a slapshot from the slot and then Dave Bolland scored on a short-handed breakaway at 11:50.
It was his second short-handed goal of the playoffs and the fourth for the Blackhawks. Bolland now has six goals this post-season. And almost as soon as the horn sounded, fans started chanting “Leighton! Leighton!” for the Flyers goalie who started his career in Chicago.
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored on a two-on-one at 1:11 of the second period and gave the Blackhawks some momentum after they gave up a late goal at the end of the opening period when Danny Briere scored his 10th of the playoffs.
Philadelphia’s Blair Betts made it 4-3 with his first post-season goal at the 7:20 mark and the Blackhawks’ Kris Versteeg tied it just over four minutes later.
All that scoring came after a wild first period that Briere capped when he knocked in a rebound with 27 seconds left after Chicago’s Patrick Kane gave it away on a bad pass. That came about 90 seconds after the Flyers Scott Hartnell tied it on a power play, quieting the 100th straight sellout crowd.
And were roaring as soon as they got to the United Center.
Fans let out a loud “Let’s Go Blackhawks!” when images of the three championship teams showed on the big scoreboard and kept the cheers coming during a lengthy pre-game video montage. They let out a deafening roar when the Blackhawks hit the ice and all but drowned out the “Star Spangled Banner.”
After years of ill will, the bond with the franchise is as strong as ever.
The Blackhawks have been on a steady climb the past three years behind young stars like Kane and Jonathan Toews, rebuilding their relationship with a fan base that had dwindled away along with the team’s success.
They’ve gone from playing in half-empty arenas to capturing the imagination of the city, losing to Detroit in the Western Conference finals last year and now playing for the championship for the first time since 1992 after finishing second in the conference during the regular season with 112 points.
On Saturday, the United Center was a sea of red and black and white, most fans opting for Toews or Kane jerseys with the occasional Hossa or Sharp mixed in. Michael Jordan was even dressed for the occasion. Well, his statue outside was, with the white and red Toews jersey, white helmet and skates with Toews’ number 19 and the Blackhawks’ logo, as it has been the past few days.
The Flyers came into the season with high expectations but needed a remarkable run to get to this point.
They endured a coaching change, with Peter Laviolette replacing John Stevens in December. There were injuries to key players like Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter, and they needed a shootout win on the final day of the season just to get in the post-season.
And then, they needed an historic comeback just to keep this run going.
After eliminating New Jersey in the first round, they staged one of the greatest comebacks in league history by rallying from both a 3-0 series deficit and 3-0 hole in Game 7 to beat the Boston Bruins on Simon Gagne’s power-play goal. Then, they took out Montreal.