Boston, MA--(WVLT/SUBMITTED) 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 minutes and the Blackhawks rallied to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 on Monday night to clinch their second NHL championship in four seasons.
Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago. But Crawford was off for an extra skater for the most important goal of the season, when Jonathan Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie it 2-2.
Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did, because they seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. A shot deflected by Michael Frolik went off the post right to Bolland, who put it in the net and started the Chicago celebration with 59 seconds left in the game.
"It's huge," Bolland said. "Just seeing that puck bounce around there, I knew I just had to tap it in. So it was a huge goal."
The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while the Blackhawks bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston's Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that the Hawks withstood Boston's final push and surged over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.
"I still can't believe that finish," Crawford said. "Oh my God, we never quit."
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. The sold-out TD Garden began 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 their team coughed up the lead.
The arena was almost empty -- except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows -- when the Chicago players passed the 35-pound Cup around the ice.
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.
"It was the best year of my life, just playing with these guys," Kane said.
Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 -- exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.
"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing," Toews said. "We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing.
" 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. We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."
Boston, needing a win to extend the series to a deciding Game 7, came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly's second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.
Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks' 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.
Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago's captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Rask between his pads.
It was Toews' second goal in three games. Of Chicago's last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.
Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.
The play that led to Kelly's goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.
Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.
It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.
Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.
Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.
After having no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.
With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston's Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before getting up and skating off slowly.
Toews was on Chicago's first shift of the game. Bergeron had left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury after playing just 49 seconds in the second period.
Five of the last nine Cup finals have gone seven games, including in 2011 when the Bruins overcame a 3-2 series deficit and won their first championship since 1972 by winning Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 in Vancouver.
In 2010, Chicago won its first NHL title since 1961 on Kane's overtime goal. As they did this year, the Blackhawks won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
This year's finals have been extremely tight, with three of the first five games going to overtime. Chicago won the opener in three overtimes, then Boston won 2-1 in one extra period and 2-0. The Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime win in a wild Game 4 in Boston before returning home for Saturday night's win.
Teams that have won Game 5 after splitting the first four have won the Cup 15 of 22 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. But the loser of Game 5 the past six times has won four championships, including the Bruins against the Canucks.
Last season, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in six games. This season, the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games to reach the Cup finals, clinching the series on Kane's goal in overtime.