Niagara Gazette

June 25, 2013

Hero's welcome for Blackhawks after late rally wins Stanley Cup

Staff Reports
Associated Press

CHICAGO — The party goes on for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Hours after returning from their 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins, the team has been giving fans a close-up look at the Stanley Cup, hauling their prize around to bars and restaurants around the city.

Team members greeted cheering fans with high-fives as they filed into The Scout bar in Chicago's South Loop. TV news helicopters hovered overhead as they followed the bus and limos ferrying the players and their families around town under a police escort.

Earlier, the team was greeted on the tarmac at O'Hare International Airport with a water cannon salute from about a dozen fire trucks and even more police cars — all with their lights flashing.

It all came after two goals — 17 seconds apart — netted the Blackhawks a second Stanley Cup victory in four seasons.

Seventy-six seconds away from defeat and a trip home for a decisive seventh game, Bryan Bickell tied it. Then, while the Bruins were settling in for another overtime in a series that has already had its share, Dave Bolland scored to give Chicago a 3-2 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

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 the Boston 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 games after falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven 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, Crawford went off for an extra skater and 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 sure seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. Chicago skated into the zone, sent a shot on net and after it deflected off Michael Frolik and the post it went right to Bolland, who put it in the net.

The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while those on the bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston's Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that Chicago withstood the Bruins' final push and swarmed over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.

"It's unbelievable, man," Crawford said. "So much hard work to get to this point. Great effort by everyone on the team."

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 had begun chanting "We want the Cup!" after Milan Lucic's goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent after its team 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."