Chicago (CP) – The margin of error was minuscule, the difference between the teams even less.
After playing on a tightrope for two weeks, the dam finally broke and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Game 6 on Monday night to win one of the tightest Stanley Cup final series in NHL history and capture their third title in the past six years.
Duncan Keith (Conn Smythe Winner as Playoff MVP) scored the clincher on one of the best individual efforts of the playoffs, and Patrick Kane provided the exclamation point with a third-period goal
They got help from goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 25 saves to pick up his first shutout of the final. In total he stopped 151 of the 161 shots he faced to outduel an injured Ben Bishop.
The Lightning’s starter again fought through injury but couldn’t be perfect enough. With a banged-up team in front of him, Bishop made 30 saves as Tampa Bay couldn’t force a Game 7 back home Wednesday night.
A Game 7 is the only thing that could have made this series more historic. Each of the first five games was decided by one goal for the first time since 1951.
In the end the difference was not the stars. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had just one goal, while Kane didn’t get on the board until the final minutes of Game 6.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was shut out.
As the series turned into a battle of wills, the Lightning put forth their final burst of desperation facing elimination. But with several players dealing with noticeable injuries, they didn’t have enough to push back against the playoff-tested and healthier Blackhawks.
Veteran defenceman Kimmo Timonen went out on top, winning the Cup in his final season.
With 22,424 screaming fans on their feet, the Blackhawks showed why they’re the team of the decade. Just like in 2010 and 2013, with the Cup on the line, they closed the deal like champions.
After an anthem so loud the crowd drowned out Jim Cornelison, fans chanted, “We want the Cup” before the opening faceoff. Within the opening minutes they gasped as Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov got a breakaway and then again as Stamkos hit the cross-bar.
Bishop thwarted the Blackhawks on a power play with a toe save on Teuvo Teravainen and then another on Brent Seabrook. His best came on a later power play when he stoned Toews on the doorstep.
After Chicago put 13 shots on net to Tampa Bay’s four in the first period, Stamkos got another golden opportunity a minute into the second. Sprung on a breakaway, Stamkos stopped and deked but couldn’t beat Crawford.
The Lightning got the first five shots of the period before Patrick Sharp ignited back-and-forth scoring chances around the midway mark. A save by Bishop that sent the puck into the stands brought a whistle and more noise to the sold-out arena.
At the 13:13 mark, the place erupted when Keith put the puck on net, followed it for the rebound and fired it past Bishop. As “Chelsea Dagger” played, the Blackhawks moved one step closer to glory.
In the dying seconds of the period, they thought they had a second goal. Instead, Brent Seabrook’s shot rang off the inside of the post to prevent the first-two goal lead of any kind in the series.
With no breathing room for six games, the Blackhawks put the Lightning on their heels in the third period. The push-back brought out some nervous energy, but then Kane scored on a two-on-one rush with Richards with 5:14 left and the celebration began. “Chelsea Dagger” again played over the loud speakers after the final buzzer, followed by “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Notes – Former Blackhawks defenceman Chris Chelios, Cubs infielder Anthony Rizzo and former White Sox star Frank Thomas were among those in attendance. … The Lightning reported 16,909 fans watched on the video boards at Amalie Arena back in Tampa. … Jonathan Drouin played just his second road game of the playoffs as the Lightning dressed 12 forwards and six defencemen.