CHICAGO — Antti Niemi was unflappable as the Stanley Cup final turned defensive in Game 2. Different style of game from the opener, yet another victory for the Blackhawks.
Niemi made 14 of his 32 saves in the final period and Chicago beat Philadelphia 2-1 Monday night to take a 2-0 series lead.
"It's unbelievable feeling how the people react," Niemi said as the crowd cheered him and chanted his name after the game. "Defense was the key."
After a 6-5 Chicago victory in the opener when the teams traded goals, both clubs tightened up their defense. The tone was more physical and chippy from the outset.
The Blackhawks, for the second straight game, got no points from their two young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But Chicago broke through against Michael Leighton when Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart late in the second period.
And after the Flyers got a power-play goal from Simon Gagne early in the third, Niemi withstood a late flurry to preserve Chicago's seventh straight win.
"I thought their goaltender played extremely well in the third period. We had more than enough looks to tie up that game," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said.
Patrick Sharp shot from the left circle and Leighton stopped it. With Chicago's Troy Brouwer battling for the puck, Hossa poked it in from the left side with 2:51 left in the second. Hossa, in his third straight Stanley Cup final with a different team (he lost with Pittsburgh in 2008 and Detroit last season), got his third goal of the playoffs and first since May 5 against Vancouver.
Just 28 seconds later, with the crowd still abuzz, Dustin Byfuglien made a steal and passed the puck to fourth-line forward Eager. Eager skated to the right circle and unleashed a shot that beat Leighton high on the glove side to make it 2-0. It was the first goal of the playoffs for the former Flyers forward.
Philadelphia broke through with one second left on a power play when Gagne scored from the left circle.
Despite the loss, the Flyers might carry momentum from a dominating third period.
"We started to play the way we should have been playing the whole series," center Claude Giroux said. "We showed we have a lot of character in this room."
The Flyers held a 33-26 edge in shots and had 30 in the final two periods.
"We certainly didn't want to spend that much time in our end. They have a lot of guys who make plays," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, whose team got six blocked shots from defenseman Duncan Keith. "Our goalie gave us a W."
Leighton, who was drafted by the Blackhawks and played parts of two seasons for them, got the nod despite being pulled in Game 1 after yielding five goals on 20 shots. He made 24 saves Monday night.
Trying to get more punch, the Flyers put forward Daniel Carcillo in the lineup. Carcillo led the team in playoff penalty minutes (30) coming in. He joined captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on a first line that had been pointless in the opener.
Carcillo replaced Gagne to start the game — Gagne later returned to the top line — and began to mix things up. He took a run at Chicago's Tomas Kopecky and inadvertently flattened teammate Carter.
The Cup final record for teams that sweep the first two games at home is 31-2. But the Flyers can draw a bit of hope from the two exceptions — one was Chicago (in 1971 against Montreal) and the other was just last season (Detroit losing to Pittsburgh).
Blackhawks wing Andrew Ladd missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Ladd was hurt in the clinching win over San Jose in the Western Conference final.
|Blackhawks lead series 2-0|
First Period—None. Penalties—Versteeg, Chi (interference), 7:26; Betts, Phi (cross-checking), 14:48; Richards, Phi (elbowing), 17:27; Carcillo, Phi (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:27; Kopecky, Chi (roughing), 17:27.
Second Period—1, Chicago, Hossa 3 (Brouwer, Sharp), 17:09. 2, Chicago, Eager 1 (Byfuglien), 17:37. Penalties—Richards, Phi (hooking), 5:08; Brouwer, Chi (roughing), 19:24.
Third Period—3, Philadelphia, Gagne 8 (Richards, Carter), 5:20 (pp). Penalties—Sharp, Chi (tripping), 3:21; Pronger, Phi, misconduct, 20:00; Eager, Chi, misconduct, 20:00. Shots on Goal—Philadelphia 3-15-15—33. Chicago 9-13-4—26. Power-play opportunities—Philadelphia 1 of 3; Chicago 0 of 3. Goalies—Philadelphia, Leighton 6-2-0 (26 shots-24 saves). Chicago, Niemi 14-4-0 (33-32). A—22,275 (19,717). T—2:33. Referees—Stephen Walkom, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Jean Morin, Steve Miller.