Chicago captures the Cup
PHILADELPHIA — As of an hour after Patrick Kane scored the winning goal in overtime last night, Peter Laviolette still hadn’t seen a replay of the puck slip past Michael Leighton. The Philadelphia coach, however, saw Kane’s reaction. And that was enough.
“I saw one of their players skate across the ice like he’d won something,’’ Laviolette said. “Then I got a little pit in my stomach.’’
There was no red light. No whistle. No emphatic point toward the Philadelphia net. But Kane, whose shot beat Leighton at 4:06, whirled around the net, saw the puck stuck in the padding behind the Flyer netminder, and sprinted the other way, shedding his equipment with every stride.
With that shot, Kane gave Chicago a 4-3 victory in Game 6, which brought the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
“I think the party in Chicago,’’ said coach Joel Quenneville, “is going to be all-world.’’
Kane and his teammates conducted interviews on the Wachovia Center ice afterward until the nifty right wing decided he’d had enough.
“I’m going to take one last look,’’ said Kane, skating off as he peered around the stands.
Kane had earned his look. Taking a feed from Brian Campbell, Kane went one-on-one with Kimmo Timonen and shook the defenseman with a head-and-shoulders fake. He burst past Timonen, drifted toward the goal line, and with one bad-angle snapper on net, Kane touched off one of the strangest Cup-winning celebrations in history.
For a few moments, even their boss wasn’t sure the puck had gone in.
“When it went in, I don’t think too many people knew what happened,’’ said Quenneville, who huddled on the bench with assistants John Torchetti and Mike Haviland before the goal was confirmed. “But it made a funny, strange sound when it hit the net.’’
Kane knew exactly what had happened. As a flailing Leighton hit the deck to try to stop the puck, he opened his five-hole wide enough for Kane’s shot to slip through. It was one of two softies (Patrick Sharp scored the other in the second to wipe out a 2-1 Flyers lead) Leighton allowed.
“When I shot it, I saw it go right through his legs,’’ said Kane. “It was sticking under the pad in the net. I booked it to the other end and tried to sell the celebration a little bit.’’
Kane finally ended a Philadelphia season in which the Flyers qualified for the playoffs in a shootout during the regular-season finale, and won four straight elimination games against the Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. In last night’s third period, down by a goal with less than five minutes remaining in their season, the Flyers made their last push to keep 2009-10 alive one more game.
The Blackhawks played their puck-possession game — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were instrumental in retrieving pucks and igniting the breakout before the Philly forecheck could get going — and kept the Flyers from pressuring Antti Niemi. But with 3:59 left in regulation, Scott Hartnell, who cleared space for himself in front of the net, tapped a Ville Leino feed past Niemi (21 saves) to tie the score, 3-3. The Flyers even had a sparkling chance to take a late lead when a wide-open Jeff Carter snapped a shot on goal from the slot. But Niemi stayed with the puck.
The Blackhawks were forced back into their dressing room after 60 minutes, with all the momentum on Philly’s side.
“I thought down the stretch in regulation and overtime, we played probably our best of the night,’’ Laviolette said. “It seemed like we were attacking. Like maybe we had started to wear them down and we were able to get some looks offensively. We had some really good opportunities. We weren’t able to cash in.’’
But before overtime, the Blackhawks settled down, looked around the room, and wondered who would be the hero. It would be Kane.
“I believed him,’’ said Jonathan Toews, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. “I don’t think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn’t 100 percent sure. It was an awkward celebration.’’
There was nothing awkward about the ending, when commissioner Gary Bettman beckoned Toews to retrieve his prize. After a quick hoist and kiss, Toews handed the Cup to Marian Hossa, the two-time loser whose goat horns once threatened to poke through his helmet.
“When we went to the finals again, I was so happy we were going,’’ Hossa said. “At the same time, it was scary. I’m so glad we won it. I’ve got a Stanley Cup. What a feeling.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.