The Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in less than 30 seconds then rode the netminding of Antti Niemi in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, edging them closer to ending the NHL's longest Stanley Cup drought. The best-of-seven finals series now shifts to Philadelphia for the next two games with Chicago 2-0 up and the Flyers needing to capitalise on home ice advantage to keep their Cup dreams alive.
While the Blackhawks have put themselves in position to end a 49-year wait for a Stanley Cup victory after notching a seventh straight win, Philadelphia are the comeback kings in this year's playoffs and will be looking to recover lost ground at home. "I'm not sure we should be frustrated, I don't think we got outplayed," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought their goaltender played extremely well in the third period we had more than enough opportunities to tie it up.
"We have to go home and take a look at some things. We have to win our games at home." Chicago broke open a tight hard-hitting contest late in the second when Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart, and that was all the offence the Blackhawks would need as Niemi stopped 32 shots. After a wild Game One shootout that produced 11 goals both teams tightened up defensively. The Flyers, who scored three-times in the first period of the opener could manage only three shots on Niemi in Game Two.
Having played like Hall of Famers getting their teams to the finals, Niemi had looked like a Finnish rookie and Leighton the waiver-wire pickup he was in jittery Stanley Cup debuts. "I think our defence played maybe a little bit better in front of the net in blocking shots and letting me see the puck," Niemi said. "But it is always a little bit about the luck. How you see the puck and how it bounces."
Leighton, who was pulled after surrendering five goals in less than two periods in the opener, was back in net and for nearly two periods withstood a furious Chicago assault. But the Blackhawks finally broke through with 2:51 to play in the second when Hossa, playing in his third Stanley Cup finals in as many years with a third different team, slammed home a loose puck from the side of net. With the capacity crowd still on its feet, Eager rifled a long-range shot past Leighton, trigging another explosion of cheers that almost blew off the roof.
Simon Gagne scored early in the third for the Flyers. *Reuters