Blackhawks Win Another Tight One

Chicago—After an offensive shootout in Game 1, the Blackhawks’ offense sputtered but the home team had a wall between the pipes and now takes a 2-0 edge as the series heads into Philadelphia.

Game 1 between the Flyers and Blackhawks was filled with enough red lights and sirens to cover the rest of the series, leaving fans wondering what kind of show Game 2 had waiting in the fold.  The anticipation built even more with the lackluster performance by both top lines in wild, high scoring Game 1.

Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrick Kane made little impact on their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance.  Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, and Mike Richards were a combined minus-7 during Game 1.

“I was maybe a little bit overexcited for the situation,” said Kane reflecting on Game 1 prior to the start of Game 2.  “I think you anticipate too much.  So sometimes you go out there, you try to do too much and it all backfires on you.”

The series opener was the highest scoring Stanley Cup Final game in 18 years, dating back to Game 4 in the 1992 Finals.  Ironically enough, that happens to be the last time the Hawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Pittsburgh Penguins outskated the Hawks 6-5, which gave the Penguins the last win they needed to capture the Stanley Cup.

The first period of Game 2 was filled with the aggressiveness, hits and defense that was absent during the majority of Game 1.

Fresh into the Flyers’ lineup, Daniel Carcillo started to mix things up immediately.  The Hawks’ hero from Saturday night, Tomas Kopecky, got right back in Carcillo’s face whenever the situation arose.  Kopecky and Carcillo were called for coincidental minors after a few face shots in front of the Philadelphia net late in the first period.

“I thought Danny did a good job.  He skated, he forechecked, he made some hits.  I thought he brought some energy,” said Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette.

The first period ended scoreless with the Blackhawks outshooting the Flyers by a 9-3 margin.

The second period was more of the same rough stuff and solid play defensively until late in the period when the Hawks grabbed the lead with two quick goals.

Chicago got on the board when Patrick Sharp snapped a shot from the slot and the rebound kicked right to Troy Brouwer.  Brouwer put the rebound on net, which Michael Leighton kicked right to Marian Hossa and he slammed the rebound in for his third goal of the playoffs with just 2:51 to play in the second period.

The Hawks struck again just 28 seconds later when Dustin Byfuglien caused a turnover in the neutral zone and then fed the puck to Ben Eager, who was streaking up the right wing boards.  Eager walked in and fired a high hard one past Leighton’s glove and into the net for his first goal of the playoffs.

“It was definitely a nice feeling to see that one go in,” Eager said.  “It was a big shift before us.  Hoss scored a big goal for us and really got the bench going.  We got out there next and got a nice bounce.”

Antti Niemi stopped Richards on a breakaway early in the second period, and then continued to turn Flyer opportunities away when he gloved scoring chances from Carcillo and Arron Asham.

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead into the remaining period, but would start the period with 1:24 still left on a penalty taken by Brouwer. 

The Flyers worked their power play in the Blackhawks zone to open the period.  As the power play was set to expire, Simon Gagne turned and fired an off balance shot that hit off of Brent Seabrook’s stick and over Niemi’s shoulder.

“[Philadelphia] definitely got some forwards who can get in there quick and create some havoc.  Anytime you get in there with some speed, it’s tough,” said Duncan Keith.

Despite the Flyers’ goal, Niemi continued to stay on his game as the Flyers kept the pressure on the Finish goaltender.  Niemi denied another great rebound opportunity by Gagne with his left pad late in the third period.

“I think our ‘D’ played maybe a little bit better in front of the net in blocking shots and letting me see the puck,” Niemi said.  “But it’s always a little bit about the luck, too, how you see the puck, and how it bounces.”

With the clock evaporating and the Flyers’ scoring chances mounting, Niemi stood tall and didn’t allow any shots, rebounds, or loose pucks past him to preserve the win.

“[Niemi] is very laid back, very quiet, very unassuming guy and he just moves forward.  He looks ahead and he’s looking to stop the next shot,” Coach Joel Quenneville said of Niemi’s rebound from Game 1.

The Blackhawks take a 2-0 lead heading to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday night.

“Right now, going to their building, it is going to be really important how we start out in Game 3,” Hossa said.  “Its going to be one of the most important games we’ll play this year.”

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