CHICAGO -- And just like that, the Chicago Blackhawks are halfway to their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
It happened quickly in Game 2 on Monday. After nearly two periods of scoreless hockey, the Hawks got two goals in the span of 28 seconds, posting a 2-1 win to take a 2-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup finals.
After a 6-5 shootout in Game 1, both goaltenders came to play.
It took a hard-nosed shift by Patrick Sharp, Troy Brouwer, and Marian Hossa to break the deadlock when Hossa put in a rebound -- one of the few yielded by Flyers goalie Michael Leighton in the first two periods.
Seconds later, while the crowd was still in a Chelsea Dagger frenzy, Ben Eager took a pass from Dustin Byfuglien and wristed one past Leighton, whose stunned look of Game 1 returned as quickly as it had left. A fourth-line player, though he was on the ice with Jonathan Toews and Byfuglien, Eager showed again why the Blackhawks’ depth is the best thing they have going.
Leighton played well, but Niemi was even better. Untested in the first period -- he only faced three shots -- he came up big with 15 saves in the second, almost all of which came before the Hawks took the lead.
His biggest ovation came when he snared an Arron Asham shot to his left as he was moving right. Niemi’s glove scooped up everything in this game as he further cemented his status as a “rebound guy” -- as in he rebounds from average performances to shine the next game. He made a nifty stop in the third on a tipped puck to preserve the lead.
Meanwhile, Hossa is halfway to exorcising past playoff demons. He’s been the driving force behind the best line in the series so far. Each player on that line earned a point on his goal.
A wonderfully played and dramatic game, the biggest difference between Saturday and Monday, besides less scoring, was the style of play. Daniel Carcillo was in the lineup for the Flyers and he tried his best to stir it up. Scrums and chippy play were the order of the day in Game 2, but once again the Hawks proved they can win playing a variety of styles.
Now, they're back on the road, where they’ve won an NHL record seven games in a row this postseason. If they keep it up, their charter flight home from Philadelphia may be carrying some extra weight -- a silver Cup.