Half a century in the making

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Blackhawks end 49-year championship drought, beat Flyers 4-3 in OT for Stanley Cup

It was bound to bite one of them, in the end. A Stanley Cup final plagued by spotty goaltending ended with a spotty goal - Patrick Kane's hopeful, wide-angle wrist shot somehow found a tunnel under Philadelphia Flyer Michael Leighton at 4:10 of the first overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory and the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Kane juked Philly defenceman Kimmo Timonen on the left-wing boards, stepped around him and drifted a low shot that Leighton, who'd been pulled from two of the games in Chicago, couldn't squeeze. The Hawks won the series four games to two.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) and left wing Andrew Ladd (16) celebrate after Kane scored the Game 6 overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers to clinch a Stanley Cup win for his team. Kane's goal gave the Blackhawks' a 4-3 win. Ph

Philadelphia -

It was bound to bite one of them, in the end. A Stanley Cup final plagued by spotty goaltending ended with a spotty goal - Patrick Kane's hopeful, wide-angle wrist shot somehow found a tunnel under Philadelphia Flyer Michael Leighton at 4:10 of the first overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory and the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Kane juked Philly defenceman Kimmo Timonen on the left-wing boards, stepped around him and drifted a low shot that Leighton, who'd been pulled from two of the games in Chicago, couldn't squeeze. The Hawks won the series four games to two.

None of the players, and not all that many of their fathers, were around when hockey's greatest prize last made the rounds in the Windy City, but Wednesday night the Blackhawks ended the streak, leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs the dubious honour of the longest dry spell in hockey - and no franchise has worked harder to earn it.

Hardly anyone else on the ice, or in the stands, seemed to know the puck had gone in.

But Kane knew.

"I knew it right away," said the mercurial little sniper. "It was stuck behind the meshing there. What a feeling. I can't believe this just happened. We just won the Stanley Cup."

"I haven't seen it yet. I didn't see the goal. I saw one of their players take off across the ice like he'd won something, and I got a little (sick feeling) in the pit of my stomach," said Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette, who stuck with Leighton until the bitter end - and bitter it was for the Flyers.

"When it went in, I don't think many people knew it," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "It made a strange sound in that padding at the back. They went into the net and were looking for the puck, it was under there deep. It was a strange ending, but the game had an all-world pace, and I thought we played our best two games of the playoffs in Games 5 and 6."

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who led the Hawks in post-season scoring with seven goals and 29 points, was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and when he was presented with the Stanley Cup by commissioner Gary Bettman, the first person he handed it to was winger Marian Hossa.

The veteran Slovak was a fabulous player for Chicago in this series, and no one worked harder than him, after being on the losing end of the last two Cup finals with Pittsburgh and Detroit.

They won it on the road, these Blackhawks, just as the 1961 Chicago team did, only this time it was Kane, not Ab McDonald, with the golden goal, as the visitors finally put away the Flyers, ending a seven-game Philly win streak at Wachovia Center.

Scott Hartnell, the extravagantly hirsute Flyer winger who looks as though he stepped out of a scene from Braveheart, scored his second goal of the game at 16:01 of the third period to get the home side into overtime - and it looked as though Philly might dodge elimination for the fifth time in this post-season.

But very much against the late-game flow of play, Kane's seeing-eye shot ended the series.

The Flyers looked tight and tentative to start, and the Toews line - with Hossa and Tomas Kopecky - strung together a series of strong shifts that had the Philly defence in trouble. The second of Chris Pronger's two first-period minors yielded the game's opening goal, by Dustin Byfuglien, who flicked home Toews's rebound on the power play at 16:49.

And when the Hawks weathered a penalty to Brent Seabrook just 10 seconds later, it looked as though they would take the lead to the intermission. But defenceman Brent Sopel's second interference penalty at 19:07 gave the Flyers another chance, and Hartnell cashed this one in with 23 seconds left in the period, stuffing Danny Briere's rebound past Antti Niemi with both Seabrook and Duncan Keith right there but unable to prevent it.

Chicago kept coming, and led 21-7 in shots at one point, but it was the Flyers who took the lead eight minutes into the second, Briere scoring after a subtle bit of skulduggery by Hartnell, whose skate clipped the backpedalling Keith's skate, causing him to go down and leave a Flyer 3-on-2.

Patrick Sharp got that back for Chicago, with the teams playing 4-on-4, finishing a neat passing play with a weak shot that nonetheless found a chink in Leighton's armour. And then Andrew Ladd, who had missed on a breakaway earlier, cleverly redirected Niklas Hjalmarsson's point shot at 17:43, after Kane got loose for a skatearound in the Philly end, to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead to take into the third period.

It took the Flyers seven minutes to even make the smallest push in the third, with the Hawks skating them off their feet. But once they started to come, they came hard, and after a string of near-misses, finally got the kind of bounce that often rewards hard work.

Ville Leino, who's been touched by the hockey gods in the playoffs but especially in the final, tried a backhand pass into the slot that struck Seabrook's stick, then Hossa's skate and pinballed right to Hartnell for the tying goal with 3:59 left in regulation.

At that point, fear and loathing must have been creeping into the Hawks' heads.

"I was thinking, 'That damn Ville Leino again!' He's been great for them the whole series'," said Keith, the Chicago defenceman who lost seven teeth in the last game of the conference final but played huge minutes and skated miles to join his defence partner, Brent Seabrook, and Toews as double champions after also taking the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver.

"I don't even care about my teeth," he said. "I'd knock them all out for this. I'm sure they'll get me some nice teeth this summer."

Philly almost won it before time ran out, but with Niemi down and out, Jeff Carter could not lift a wrist shot into the top of the net and struck the goalie in the right shoulder with 85 seconds remaining in regulation.

"They had a terrific season, a terrific playoff run and they played great in the finals. It was challenging," said Laviolette. "I don't think they got here, and got through the teams they got through, by chance. They're fast both ways."

Organizations: Chicago Blackhawks, Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs Wachovia Center

Geographic location: Chicago, Philadelphia, OT Windy Pittsburgh Detroit Vancouver

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