Blackhawks end 49-year Stanley Cup drought
Patrick Kane appeared to be the only one inside the building who knew immediately that the City of Big Shoulders was finally going to lift the Stanley Cup high once again.
The skilled Chicago Blackhawks right-winger feigned his away around Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen and slipped a shot underneath goalie Michael Leighton for the overtime winner in his team's 4-3 victory on Wednesday.
The club record crowd of 20,327 at the Wachovia Center thought Leighton had the puck in his equipment. The goal light did not come on. But Kane skated behind the net and saw the puck go in. He started to yell, "It went in, it went in."
His teammates were slow to join Kane's one-man celebration. But eventually, the party was on. Chicago had its first NHL championship to enjoy since 1961. The long-awaited victory parade downtown will happen Friday.
"I knew it right away," said Kane, who scored four minutes and six seconds into the extra period. "It was stuck behind the meshing there.
"Got a shout-out to my people back in Buffalo, my hometown. I have four buddies who drove all the way to come out here. My five family members. Three sisters, three beautiful sisters. My mom and dad. What a feeling. I can't believe it. It's unbelievable. We just won the Stanley Cup."
When captain Jonathan Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP, was presented the Stanley Cup by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, he raised the prized mug over his head. Toews and teammates Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook became only the fourth, fifth and sixth players to have won an Olympic gold and a Stanley Cup in the same year.
They were preceded by Ken Morrow, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman.
"Oh my God, it's like that commercial. I'm speechless," said Toews, who registered only three assists in the six-game series but finished second to Philadelphia's Daniel Briere in the playoff scoring race with seven goals and 29 points in 22 games.
"This team put on one heckuva run," he added. "We knew from day one of this season we had the potential to do it. And to realize our goal, it's an amazing feeling."
Hossa finally wins Cup
Toews handed the Stanley Cup next to Marian Hossa. He was third-time lucky after all. This was his third trip in a row to the final and after failed trips with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, he wondered if he would ever have this experience.
"I was so happy to get to the finals again, but at the same time it was scary," Hossa said. "But finally I have that Stanley Cup. I've played 12 years and to finally get [it] in my first year in Chicago — wow. This is unbelievable."
Hossa passed the Stanley Cup to Patrick Sharp, a former Flyers forward. From him it went to veteran Brent Sopel to 37-year-old John Madden, who celebrated his third championship after two with the New Jersey Devils.
After Madden, Keith raised the prized trophy, and then he passed it on to his defence partner Seabrook to Dave Bolland to Nick Boynton to Brian Campbell, who made the pass to Kane for the winner, to Andrew Ladd to Tomas Kopecky to Ben Eager and down the line.
Ladd has spent only five seasons in the NHL and this was his second title after winning it with the 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes under current Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
"The first time was great, obviously, and this is just as great," Ladd said. "You can't explain the feeling. It's something you dream about as a little kid and to have this moment twice in my life is crazy."
Keith, who lost seven teeth in the conference final finale when struck in the mouth by a puck, was relieved to see the end of a long season.
Time to relax
"It's finally over and it's time to relax," he said. "So many guys did so many good things for this to happen. You can't win this thing without guys stepping up and scoring so many goals. Kaner stepped up tonight. It was a total team effort.
"Now I want to get some teeth put in. One of my first things will be to visit a dentist."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also finally was rewarded for a long and productive coaching career. He won a Stanley Cup title with the 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche as an assistant coach on Marc Crawford's staff. But now he joins his buddy Crawford as the latest Stanley Cup-winning head coach.
This Blackhawks had fallen on hard times and had missed the playoffs nine of 10 seasons prior to making the post-season last year. They were an afterthought on the Chicago sporting scene. But Dale Tallon slowly rebuilt the team. The general manager was fired last summer for a contract snafu that caused a handful of players to become more costly as unrestricted free agents.
Enter Stan Bowman, the son of the legendary Scotty Bowman. The elder Bowman also was brought in as an advisor two summers ago and now he has his 13th Stanley Cup.
The two teams traded power-play goals in the first period. Dustin Byfuglien scored for Chicago and Scott Hartnell countered for the Flyers. Briere put Philadelphia up 2-1 in the second period, but the Blackhawks came roaring back with goals from Sharp and Ladd.
The Blackhawks had dominated the game, outshooting their opponents 41-24. But the Flyers didn't want their surprising playoffs to end. Hartnell stuck out his stick with 3:59 remaining to tip home a pass from linemate Ville Leino and send the game into overtime.
"I'm proud of our team and the way we compete," Laviolette said. "The way we played, the way we never quit. We never gave up. They kept fighting."