The Chicago Blackhawks shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, in Game 6 to clinch a 4-2 series win in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Duncan Keith scored the game-winner and Patrick Kane added the insurance goal for the team's third Cup since 2010.
Is it possible to take the ice tonight at the United Center like it is any other night? Is it possible to play like it is any other game? Is it possible to ignore a city ready to explode? The Blackhawks knew if they were to take care of business on home ice and bring another Stanley Cup to Chicago they needed to keep their emotions in check and play their own beautiful brand of hockey. It would have to be their best effort of a long and grueling season against an opponent that had nothing to lose and no intention of going quietly -- and it was.
With an almost hysterical United Center crowd behind them and the adrenaline pumping, the Hawks came out ready to take care of business. Through the first three minutes of the first period puck possession looked to be evenly split between the teams with neither yet able to sustain offensive zone presence. As expected, defense was at a premium in this decisive game and the Hawks d-men were once again everywhere they needed to be.
There were few scoring chances up to the eight-minute mark when Steven Stamkos rung one off the post and followed it up with yet another strong chance as the Lightning pushed the pace. Cedric Paquette went to the box for a trip on Jonathan Toews giving the Hawks their first power play of the game at 8:35 of the first period. The Hawks put together several strong chances during their power play, but came up empty. Shots were 5-4 in favor of the Hawks with 7:30 left in the first period, though the Hawks were looking more comfortable and generating more offense in the latter stages of the period.
At 13:53 of the first, Brian Boyle took a roughing penalty on Patrick Kane, giving the Hawks yet another go on the man advantage. Again, the Hawks had a number of great looks and kept sustained pressure on Ben Bishop for much of the 2-minute advantage, tallying four shots on goal, but were once again denied. Both goalies looked strong and focused in net as the period ended in a scoreless tie with shots on goal favoring the Blackhawks, 13-4.
Crawford fought off a one-on-one from Stamkos to open the second period and we were off and running. The Lightning came out strong to start the second and set-up camp in the Hawks zone with the home team looking erratic and confused. The first 5 minutes of the period flew by and very fortunately for the home team the game remained scoreless. The Hawks had a couple of good looks and began to settle in as the first half of the period wound down, but Bishop continued his strong play and nothing found the back of the net with scoring chances tied at 7-7.
With half of the second period in the books, the Hawks still had no shots on goal, but continued to work hard in the offensive zone. Incredible shifts by the second and fourth lines yielded four shots on goal in a minute and a half and brought a frenzied United Center crowd to their feet as puck after puck flew at the net again to no avail.
With five minutes remaining in the second period both teams continued to look for the game's first goal. At 17:13 of the second, Duncan Keith broke a scoreless tie off incredible passes from Brad Richards and Patrick Kane and taking advantage of a bad line change by the Lightning to give the Hawks the lead with a little more than one period to play.
The Hawks own an 11-1 record when scoring first this post season and are an incredible 34-0-0 when leading after two periods this season. The scoring chances continued to come as a frenzied five minutes wound down and the Hawks looked to extend their lead.The Blackhawks headed to their third power play in the last minute of the period when Ondrej Palat was sent to the box for elbowing. The period expired with 1:12 of power play time remaining after Brent Seabrook put one off the post, narrowly missing a chance to send the Hawks to the locker room up two.
The Hawks started the third period on the man advantage, but could not get any traction and the power play expired with no further shots from the home team. The Lightning came out strong in the offensive zone to start the third period as they looked to even the score. Six of seven shots in the early going came off Lightning sticks and again the Hawks looked a bit drowsy in the early part of the third period. As the clock rolled to 15 minutes remaining, the Hawks began to take up residence in the offensive zone and brought some action to Bishop's net. As in the previous two periods, the goaltenders remained strong, giving up very little in the way of rebounds or second chances.
With the less than 10 minutes to go the pace became yet again more furious as the Lightning offense battled with a Hawks defense that was simultaneously skating and throwing themselves onto the ice to stop the onslaught of pucks. Chants of "Let's Go Hawks" burst occasionally from a sometimes quiet and nervous United Center crowd as the clock ticked down to seven minutes remaining. Corey Crawford was impeccable in goal as the Lightning shots became more insistent. And with 5:14 left in the game, Brad Richards put the puck on the tape of Patrick Kane's stick and Showtime gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead and some much needed breathing room for a city on the brink.
As the clock ticked ever closer to zero, the Lightning got their first power play of the game after Andrew Desjardins was whistled for tripping. Immediately the onslaught began and Corey Crawford answered the call. Bishop vacated the net with 2:48 to go and the Lightning had one minute of 6 on 4 hockey. The Hawks continued to display the incredible defense that brought them to this moment. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, eight months later ... the Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions for the third time in six years.
Happy summer, Chicago ... only 12 weeks until training camp!