Chicago takes Game 1
Kopecky becomes an unlikely hero
Tomas Kopecky had the go-ahead goal in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Flyers last night, 6-5.
Fast-paced and up-and-down, the game was played at breakneck speed. Two teams trying to get off to a quick start traded goals for the first two periods. It was almost a question of who would score last in this meeting of franchises who have experienced long title droughts.
It happened to be the Blackhawks.
“You lose the first game of the Stanley Cup finals and it’s hard to sit here and thumb through the positives right now,’’ Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ll take a look at it tonight and tomorrow. We’ll be ready to go.’’
Game 2 is tomorrow night at the United Center.
Kopecky, who had been scratched the previous five playoff games and was in the lineup because of an injury to Andrew Ladd, scored from the left side with a sharp-angled shot that beat backup goalie Brian Boucher at 8:25 of the third.
The Flyers failed to keep a lid on the Blackhawks despite three one-goal leads.
“They came out strong, they were playing really physical,’’ Chicago forward Kris Versteeg said. “We had to match them, and once we did that, I think we did well.’’
Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell had a goal and two assists apiece for the Flyers.
Chicago’s Troy Brouwer scored two goals, the second putting the Blackhawks ahead, 5-4, in the second period and prompting the Flyers to replace starter Michael Leighton with Boucher.
“I just wanted to be ready. We wanted to go out and be a dangerous line every time we were on the ice,’’ Brouwer said.
Dave Bolland also scored for the Blackhawks, with his goal coming on a shorthanded breakaway. Patrick Sharp and Versteeg added goals for Chicago as well.
Ville Leino, Blair Betts, and Arron Asham scored for the Flyers.
The Blackhawks are in their first final series since 1992 and are aiming for the franchise’s first championship since 1961. The Flyers, who last made the finals in 1997, are shooting for their first title since the Broad Street Bullies won the second of two straight championships in 1975.
The Flyers weren’t too bullish last night. They played the entire game without a penalty.
Brouwer’s second goal, on a pass from Marian Hossa, who reversed himself behind the net, came from the left circle with 4:42 left in the second, sending ex-Blackhawks goalie Leighton to the bench.
Leighton had been brilliant since taking over in the second round. He entered the game with a 6-1 record, including three shutouts, after replacing an injured Boucher in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins. Leighton entered with a 1.45 goals-against average and save percentage of .948. He was pulled after giving up his fifth goal in just 20 shots.
Chicago’s Antti Niemi made 27 saves for the win.
The Flyers had a 17-9 shot advantage in the opening period, showing that they have the offensive quickness to match the Blackhawks. Although they scored a late goal in each of the first two periods, they couldn’t hold onto leads of 1-0, 3-2, and 4-3, a topic Laviolette is sure to address.