PHILADELPHIA - The third time was a charm for Marian Hossa.
After consecutive losses in the Stanley Cup Final with Detroit and Pittsburgh, Hossa finally raised the coveted hardware Wednesday night after the Blackhawks beat the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime in Game 6, and put it on his shoulder. "It feels pretty heavy actually,'' Hossa said. "What a relief.''
And now Hossa's name and those of his Chicago teammates will be on the Cup along with Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall and all the other greats from the Blackhawks of the Original Six. This new group of young Blackhawks, led by 21-year-old Patrick Kane, who scored the Cup winner at 4:10 of overtime and had two assists, captain Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien is bringing the trophy back to the Windy City for the first time since 1961 after capturing the series four games to two.
"[Keith] Duncan and Sharpie [Patrick Sharp] agreed that after myself, he should be the first one to hoist it," said Toews, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Kane, a Buffalo native who was the first pick in the 2007 draft, scored short side on Michael Leighton and dropped his gloves and stick as he sped down the ice toward goaltender Antti Niemi and spark an initially awkward, then wild on-ice celebration in enemy territory at Wachovia Center.
"I knew it right away. I saw it go right through his legs and stuck in the net. I booked down the ice to start the celebration. I think some guys were a little iffy,'' Kane said. "This team put on one heck of a run . . . to realize our goal, it's an amazing feeling.''
Goals by Andrew Ladd, who won the Cup with Carolina in 2006, former Flyer Sharp and Byfuglien and critical saves by rookie goaltender Niemi, gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes but Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game with 3:59 left in regulation to force the extra session and the resilient Flyers had the momentum early in overtime.
The Blackhawks were deflated, but rebounded. "We just said someone has to get that feeling, someone has to be the hero,'' Toews said. "This is the best feeling you can get playing hockey. We would have liked to do it in front of our own fans but we'll take it any way we can.''
Instead of a Game 7 Friday, Chicago is planning a parade.
"They always wanted it and their focus was in the right place,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought the last two games [including a 7-4 win in Game 5] were our best of the playoffs ''
It ended a remarkable run by the Flyers, who beat the Rangers in a shootout in the final game of the regular season to join the postseason tournament and toppled the Devils, Bruins and Canadiens to reach the Finals, where four of the six games were decided by one goal.
"I think we grew through adversity,'' said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "I felt we had opportunities to put the things away in the third and we didn't. [Niemi's] very quick side to side low and he came up with big saves. You have to give him credit.''
In the second, the Blackhawks grabbed a 3-2 lead with their second consecutive goal with just 2:17 left in the period. Ladd, checked by defenseman Braydon Coburn in front, got his blade on Niklas Hjalmarsson's blast from the left point and the puck skipped past Leighton. It was Ladd's third of the playoffs and Kane was awarded his second assist. After 40 minutes, the Blackhawks had more than doubled the Flyers in shots, 27-13 and finished 41-24.
Hossa's questionable goaltender interference call nullified a Blackhawks power play, but Chicago capitalized with their speed on a 4-on-4 at 9:58, just 29 seconds after Hossa's penalty. The Blackhawks broke down ice and from deep in the right circle, Sharp took a pass from Dave Bolland, and slipped one by Leighton's short side and the post, a shot the goaltender surely wanted back.
The Flyers had taken their first lead of the game about two minutes earlier and the crowd of 20, 327 exploded. Danny Briere, off an odd-man rush created when Keith fell at the blue line when he clipped skates with Hartnell, snapped a 1-1 tie, converting a pass from Ville Leino for his 12th of the playoffs at the eight-minute mark.
In the first period, the Flyers, who had vowed to come out skating and banging as they tried to avoid elimination yet again, were swarmed by the Blackhawks early. Chris Pronger went off for holding Hossa at 8:42 and Keith's slapper from the point clanged off the left post and caromed across to Toews, who fanned on the rebound.
The shots were 9-2 - en route to a 17-7 dominance in the first 20 minutes - when Brent Sopel went off for interference. The Flyers failed to get a shot on Niemi during that power play, and when Pronger was whistled for high-sticking Toews, the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead on Byfuglien's conversion of Toews' pass in front at 16:49. It was his third goal in the past two games and 11th of the postseason. Brent Seabrook was called for elbowing 10 seconds later, and Chicago's penalty killers kept the Flyers without a shot on the man advantage again.
Hjalmarsson, without a stick, sprawled to smother a pass intended for Briere in front and it appeared the Hawks would escape the period with the lead. But Sopel was penalized again, this time for an elbow at 19:07, and Hartnell jammed the rebound of Briere's shot from the top of the left circle under Niemi with 27 seconds left in the period, tying the score.