BOSTON – Two goals. Seventeen seconds apart. A second Stanley Cup victory in four seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Seventy-six seconds away from defeat and a trip home for a decisive seventh game, Bryan Bickell tied it. Then, while the Bruins were settling in for another overtime in a series that has already had its share, Dave Bolland scored to give Chicago a 3-2 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.
The back-to-back scores in about the time it takes for one good rush down the ice turned a near-certain loss into a championship clincher, stunning the Boston players and their fans and starting the celebration on the Chicago bench with 59 seconds left.
“We thought we were going home for Game 7. You still think you’re going to overtime and you’re going to try to win it there. Then Bolly scores a huge goal 17 seconds later,” said Chicago forward Patrick Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player. “It feels like the last 58 seconds were an eternity.”
The team that set an NHL record with a 24-game unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season won three straight games after falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven finals, rallying from a deficit in the series and in its finale. Corey Crawford made 23 saves, and Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal and an assist in the first finals between Original Six teams since 1979.
“I still can’t believe that finish. Oh my God, we never quit,” Crawford said. “I never lost confidence. No one in our room ever did.”
Trailing 2-1, Crawford went off for an extra skater and the Blackhawks converted when Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie the score.
Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did. They sure seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. Chicago skated into the zone, sent a shot on net and after it deflected off Michael Frolik and the post it went right to Bolland, who put it in the net.
“It’s unbelievable man,” Crawford said. “So much hard work to get to this point. Great effort by everyone on the team.”
The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while those on the bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston’s Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that Chicago withstood Boston’s final push and swarmed over the boards.
“In 2010, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing,” said Toews, who scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it 1-1 in the second period, then fed Bickell for the score that tied it with 76 seconds to play.
“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,” Toews said. “We’ve been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off.”