Blackhawks 6, Flyers 5
(Chicago, IL) - Kris Versteeg summed it up perfectly.
"It was a lot of fun," Chicago's right wing said after the Blackhawks wacky 6-5 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. "And, I almost had a heart attack."
How many fans watching Saturday night actually did need an ambulance or at least a phone nearby so they could dial 9-1-1?
"Bizarro night in the NHL" saw the Blackhawks and Flyers combine for 11 goals off 20 assists, and not one of the 31 points came from a first-line player. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Richards
, Jeff Carter
and Simon Gagne combined to go minus-16.
Bizarro night also had Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton
, he of the three shutouts in the Eastern Conference Final, give up 5 goals on 20 shots in just over 35 minutes before he was mercifully replaced by Brian Boucher
It had four lead changes and 5 tying goals.
Chicago threw the final punch of the night to gain a 1-0 lead in the series with Game 2 scheduled for Monday back at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). But in keeping with theme of the wacky night, the winner came from a player, Tomas Kopecky, who was in the lineup only because of an injury.
A healthy scratch for the last five games, Kopecky was playing because Andrew Ladd's shoulder injury meant he could not. He took Ladd's spot on the third line with Versteeg and Dave Bolland, and the trio combined for the winner with 11:35 to play.
Brent Seabrook kept the puck in the zone at the right point before Bolland sent it into the corner for Versteeg, who zipped a diagonal cross-ice feed to Kopecky's stick. Kopecky skated through the left circle and patiently waited for Boucher to come far enough out of his crease so he couldn't get back in time. Just before he got to the goal line, Kopecky shoveled the puck into the net and started his celebration at the end boards.
"I saw it from the corner, so I thought Boucher took it all away, and he did, but it was just a great goal," Versteeg said. "I think Boucher played the puck perfectly, but it was just a great patient play by him (Kopecky) and a great goal."
There was some thought that the puck actually hit Kopecky while he was still on the edge of bench, and the play should have been blown dead.
"That's neither here nor there right now," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "They scored."
Even though they were putting the pressure on, the Flyers managed only four more shots the rest of the way and finally, after a rough first two periods, Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi got his wits about him and made some nice saves to preserve the victory.
Niemi wound up with 27 saves against 32 shots, but he was 6-for-6 in the third period.
"I think I felt more comfortable in the first period and then the second was pretty tough," Niemi said. "In the third, I was pretty much waiting for it to end."
He might have been, but the remaining residents in the hockey world were on the edge of their seats for the entire 60 minutes. It wasn't pretty and neither team would like to bottle up their performances for Game 2, but it sure was fun to watch.
The five goals scored in the first period were the most scored in the opening period of a Stanley Cup Final in 28 years. Not that they were trying to outdo themselves, but the Flyers and Blackhawks scored five more in a similarly wild second period.
Ironically, the last time at least 11 goals were scored in a Cup Final game was the last time the Hawks played in a Cup Final game. They lost, 6-5, to Pittsburgh on June 1, 1992 at Chicago Stadium as the Penguins completed the sweep for their second straight title.
Troy Brouwer scored twice and Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland also tallied for the Hawks.
Bolland's goal, which put the Hawks up 2-1 with 8:10 left in the first period, was off a short-handed breakaway. Brouwer's second goal with 4:42 left was Boucher's cue to come off the bench in relief of Leighton.
staked the Flyers a 1-0 lead 6:38 into the game. Scott Hartnell
, Danny Briere
, Blair Betts
and Arron Asham also scored for Philadelphia. Asham scored his with 71 seconds left in the second period to tie the game at 5-5.
"I don't think we're going to see that every game," Boucher said. "It seemed like every chance that was there had a chance to go in. Some nights it's like that. Tonight was one of those crazy nights."
Boucher hadn't played since suffering a double knee injury in Game 5 against Boston on May 10. He delivered with 11 saves, and didn't feel he could do anything more on Kopecky's game-winner.
"I thought maybe he ran out of room, but he made a pretty good play," Boucher said. "You don't expect him to be that open on a cross-ice play, but he had the poise not to shoot it, just made a pump and deke. It's a good move by him."
As the game unfolded, Versteeg said the Hawks bench got wild.
"It was pretty much just screaming and yelling," he said.
They finally gained some control in the third period.
"The first period was a little jittery for both teams and in the second I still think we were a little bit more emotional than we normally are," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Then all of a sudden we picked up the tempo, and pace that we wanted to set and continue. That's the standard we want to move on going forward to the next game."
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
, who led the game with 32:21 of ice time, lamented on the Flyers mental errors. He didn't think nerves were a problem, but a lot needs to be corrected for a better result in Game 2.
"Both teams are confident offensively, but defense wins championships and we need to tighten it up in our own end and play with a little gusto in our own end," Pronger said. "Everybody has a little experience now, got their feet underneath them, and I'm sure we'll tighten things up for Monday."
|Three star selections