BOSTON (AP) – Two hours after clinching the Stanley Cup title, a handful of Chicago Blackhawks wandered back out onto the TD Garden ice in their street clothes.
Two of them walked gingerly over to the corner and recreated the goals that brought the NHL season to a stunning conclusion. A few took swigs from Champagne bottles. Some posed for pictures. Others took them.
The Blackhawks celebrated their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons on Monday night, coming from behind when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 and take the best-of-seven series in six games.
“This goal, the ending — nobody saw it coming,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You just hope. And we tied it up and the other one was icing on the cake. But nobody foresaw either one coming.
“That series and the pace that we just saw for six straight games was an amazing series,” he said. “Commend both teams for leaving it out there.”
Seventy-six seconds away from defeat and a trip home for a decisive seventh game, Bickell tied and, while the Bruins were settling in for another overtime in a series that has already had its share, Bolland scored to give Chicago the lead.
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 Boston’s players and their fans, and starting the celebration on the Blackhawks’ bench with 59 seconds to play.
“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 after falling behind 2-1 in the 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 with Crawford sent off for an extra skater, 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 seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff.
Chicago skated into the zone and Johnny Oduya sent a shot on net that deflected off Michael Frolik and the post before landing right in front of Bolland.
He chipped it in, and the Blackhawks knew it was over.
The Chicago players who’d been on the ice gathered in the corner, while those on the bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, with Boston’s Tuukka Rask off for an extra man, that the Blackhawks withstood the final push and swarmed over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.
“I don’t think there’s any question, even though — let’s face it — today was a little bit of luck, we’re still the best team in the league,” Oduya said. “We proved that during the year, and we proved that during the playoffs. Lot of things have to break right for you, they did tonight, but sometimes the great teams make their own breaks.”
The Bruins got 28 saves from Rask, who was hoping to contribute to an NHL title after serving as Tim Thomas’ backup when Boston won it all two years ago.
“It’s obviously shocking when you think you have everything under control,” Rask said quietly, standing at his locker with a blue baseball cap on backward and a towel draped over his shoulders.
The sold-out TD Garden was chanting “We want the Cup!” after Milan Lucic’s goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent when Boston coughed up the lead. The team came out to salute its fans as they streamed out of the building for the last time, from the air conditioning into the summer air.
“Probably toughest for sure, when you know you’re a little bit over a minute left and you feel that you’ve got a chance to get to a Game 7,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And then those two goals go in quickly.”
The arena was almost empty — except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows — when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed the 35-pound Cup to Toews, who left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury and wasn’t confirmed for the lineup until the morning skate.
The Chicago captain skated with the Cup right over the crease in which the Blackhawks mounted the comeback and in front of the fans in Blackhawks sweaters who lined up along the front row behind the net. Toews banged on the glass while the remaining Bruins fans headed up the runways.
He then continued the tradition of handing it from player to player before the team settled to the side of the faceoff circle for a picture with the trophy they will possess for the next 12 months.
Just like in 2010, they won it in a Game 6 on the road.
“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.”
The Blackhawks opened the season on a 21-0-3 streak and coasted to the Presidents’ Trophy that goes to the team with the best regular-season record. But regular-season excellence has not translated into playoff success: Chicago is the first team with the best record to win the Cup since the 2008 Detroit Red Wings.
The Blackhawks went through Minnesota in five games and Detroit in seven, rallying in the Western Conference semifinals from a 3-1 deficit and winning Game 7 in overtime. They got through the defending NHL champion Los Angeles Kings in five games to return to the Cup finals, where Boston was waiting.
Chicago won the first game at home in three overtimes but dropped Game 2 — another overtime — and fell behind 2-1 in the series when it returned to Boston.
After that, it was all Blackhawks.
The tightly contested finals — with three games going a total of five overtimes — may help fans forget the lockout that shortened the season to 48 games and pushed back the opener to Jan. 19. That left the teams still playing ice hockey on a 95-degree day in Boston on June 24, matching the latest date in NHL history.
A Game 7 would have excited most hockey fans even more, and the series seemed to be heading there for the sixth time in 10 years before Bickell and Bolland turned it around.
“Dave Bolland, what else can you say about that guy?” Kane said. “He just shows up in big playoff games.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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