By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010; D01
PHILADELPHIA -- Patrick Kane raced around Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen in overtime, then fired a shot from a tight angle.
And for a moment, Kane knew what no one else at Wachovia Center did: The Chicago Blackhawks had won the Original Six franchise's fourth Stanley Cup and first since 1961. A brief video review confirmed that Kane's shot had indeed slipped between Michael Leighton's pads, clinching the Blackhawks' 4-3 victory in Game 6.
"I knew right away," Kane said. "It was stuck between the meshing there. I can't believe this just happened. To score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals. It was just . . . it was just unbelievable."
Scott Hartnell scored his second goal with 3 minutes 59 seconds remaining in regulation to extend Philadelphia's season and get the record crowd of 20,327 to believe that maybe, just maybe, the Flyers had one more comeback left in them.
But that reprieve proved to be only a brief one.
Kane burst down the wing from the top of the Philadelphia zone, turning around Timonen. Then Kane unleashed a low shot from near the goal line that sneaked between Leighton's pads. Leighton had already yielded one soft goal in the game. Kane's ended the Flyers' season.
"I heard the sound; it was a funny sound," Coach Joel Quenneville said. "Nobody knew where the puck was. Kaner thought it was in. The video guy came out, and he knew it was in the net. I didn't know for sure until I saw the net lift and I saw the puck in the back, I said, 'Okay, the party is on.' "
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Despite notching only three assists in the finals, the 22-year-old had seven goals and 29 points in 22 games to top the postseason scoring list.
"Oh my God," Toews said. "It's like that commercial. I'm speechless. We knew from Day One of this season that we had the potential to do it. And to realize our goal, it's an amazing feeling."
Toews added: "It was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do. We were all standing around waiting for the official call."
After Toews lifted the Cup above his head, he handed it to teammate Marian Hossa, who had lost in each of the two previous finals -- in 2008 with Pittsburgh and 2009 with Detroit.
"It was very apropos," Quenneville said of Hossa.
Hossa added of finally lifting the Cup: "It feels pretty heavy, actually. What a relief. I'm so happy to win this."
While the Blackhawks celebrated, the Flyers were left to lament yet another near miss. Since claiming back-to-back championships in 1974 and 1975, Philadelphia has come up short in the finals six times.
"I thought down the stretch in regulation and overtime we played probably our best of the night," Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Like maybe we had started to wear them down [but] we weren't able to cash in."
To clinch the Cup, Chicago did something neither team had done all series: win on the road. And the Blackhawks pulled it off thanks to goals from Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd and the play of goaltender Antti Niemi, who made 21 saves including point-blank stops on Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter in the final minutes of regulation.
"He's the real deal," Quenneville said of Niemi. "Great save on Carter in the dying minutes of the third period. He played so many big games for us. What a big Game 2 in Chicago for us."
Both Niemi and Leighton had their share of struggles in this series. But when the season was on the line, it was Leighton (37 saves) who didn't get it done.
With his team clinging to a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, the 29-year-old journeyman, back in net despite being pulled for the second time in the series on Sunday and a brutal 4.01 goals against average, allowed an ordinary-looking wrist shot from Sharp to squeeze between his pads while the teams skated four-on-four.
Later in the period, Ladd redirected a point shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson past Leighton to send the Blackhawks into the third ahead, 3-2.
And that's how the score remained until 16:01 of the third period, when Hartnell crashed the net and redirected a cross pass from Ville Leino past Niemi to knot the score, 3-3, and set off a wild celebration.
The good times on Broad Street, though, were short-lived.
"It hurts a lot," said Flyers captain Mike Richards, who finished with one goal, one assist and a plus minus rating of minus 7. "It happens every time you seem to have control of the overtime, they go down and hey capitalize on one of their chances."
Just a little while later, it was Chicago's turn to celebrate the end of the NHL's longest Stanley Cup drought.
"The party is going to be unbelievable," Quenneville said.
Notes: Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, all members of the Canadian Olympic team, won both a gold medal and the Stanley Cup in the same year. Only Ken Morrow (USA, New York Islanders in 1980) and Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman (Canada, Detroit in 2002) have accomplished the feat. . . . Chicago's win snapped a 10-game losing streak in Philadelphia. . . . Niemi became the first Finland-born goaltender to win the Cup. . . . Briere recorded three points to set the Flyers' record for points in a postseason (30), eclipsing Brian Propp's 28 in 1987. Briere's 12 points were the most the Cup finals since 1994. . . . Chicago's Stan Bowman, 36, is the youngest General Manager on record to win the Cup.