BOSTON – An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season.
Three straight victories to clinch the title.
From beginning to end, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 and the Blackhawks struck quickly to win Game 6 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final 3-2 over the Boston Bruins on Monday night for their second NHL championship in four seasons.
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“I still can’t believe that finish. Oh my God, we never quit,” said Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 23 saves. “I never lost confidence. No one in our room ever did.”
Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal and an assist in the first Final between NHL Original Six teams since 1979.
“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 the score 1-1 in the second period, then fed Bickell for the goal that tied the score at 2 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.”
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as this year’s playoffs most valuable player.
“It’s a cool feeling,” Kane said. “Right now, you’re so excited about the Cup, it’s not something I’m thinking about.”
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.
Boston seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. Chicago skated into the zone, sent a shot on net and — after the puck deflected off Michael Frolik and the left post — it went right to Bolland, who put it in the net with 59 seconds left.
“We knew they were going to pinch (in toward the net), and you lose a puck battle here or there, and they made great plays,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “The tying goal is a great play. They’ve got their best players out there on the ice and then they made a great pass.”
Of Bolland’s winning goal, Julien said, “Our guys were close to him, but, you know, he just out-muscled them on that.”
As Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, Chicago withstood Boston’s final push to secure the Cup.
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.