BOSTON — An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season.
Three straight victories to clinch the title.
From beginning to end, the Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final minutes and the Blackhawks rallied to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final 3-2 Monday night, stunning the Bruins to clinch their second championship in four seasons.
Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago. But Crawford was off for an extra skater for the most important goal of the season, when Jonathan Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie it at 2.
Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did, because they seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. A shot deflected by Michael Frolik went off the post right to Bolland, who put it in the net and started the Chicago celebration with 58.3 seconds left.
"It's huge," Bolland said. "Just seeing that puck bounce around there, I knew I just had to tap it in. So it was a huge goal."
The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while players on the bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston's Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that the Blackhawks withstood Boston's final push and surged over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.
"I still can't believe that finish," Crawford said. "Oh my God, we never quit."
The Bruins got 28 saves from Rask, who was hoping to contribute to an NHL title after serving as Tim Thomas' backup when Boston won it all two years ago. The sold-out TD Garden began chanting "We want the Cup!" after Milan Lucic's goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent after their team gave up the lead.
"It's obviously shocking when you think you have everything under control," Rask said quietly, standing at his locker with a blue baseball cap on backward and a towel draped over his shoulders.
Rusk described Bolland's goal: "It was a shot from the point. Deflection, rebound, goal. A lot of plays happen like that.''
And then his voice trailed off.
The arena was almost empty — except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows — when the Chicago players passed the 35-pound Cup around the ice.
In Chicago, cheers of exultant Blackhawks fans filled Madison Avenue, a roar that began with Bolland's goal and building to a crescendo as time expired.
Police officers and squad cars lined Madison, a few blocks east of the United Center — where the Michael Jordan statue in front of the arena wore a Blackhawks jersey — and home to a strip of bars.
"As a businessman, a Game 7 would be great, but as a 'Hawks fan, I'm sick of the Bruins," said Third Rail Tavern owner Danny Shapiro.
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.
"It was the best year of my life, just playing with these guys," Kane said.
Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, had three goals and an assist as Chicago won the final three games. He finished with nine goals and 10 assists for the playoffs, edging forward Patrick Sharp and Crawford for the Conn Smythe.
Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackhawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 — exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.
"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing," Toews said. "We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing.
"This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group. We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."
Boston came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly's second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.
Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks' 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.
Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago's captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Rask between his pads.
It was Toews' second goal in three games. Of Chicago's last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.
"We really felt that we wanted to play as hard as we could for a numbers of reasons, for the city," Chara said. "We were very proud of the fans the way they stood behind us."
Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.
The play that led to Kelly's goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.
Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.
It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.
Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.
Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.
After no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.
With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston's Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before skating off slowly.
"Dave Bolland, what else can you say about that guy?" Kane said. "He just shows up in big playoff games."
Canucks expected to introduce Torts today
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canucks are expected to introduce John Tortorella as coach today. Tortorella, a former Lightning coach, was recently fired by the Rangers, arrived in Vancouver on Friday amid reports he would replace the fired Alain Vigneault. The Rangers hired Vigneault last week. Tortorella led New York to a 26-18-4 record and sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Boston ousted the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.
around the league: Sharks forward Marty Havlat, 32, had surgery to help repair an injured groin that sidelined him during the playoffs. The injury means the team can't use a new option of a compliance buyout of the final two years of his $30 million, six-year contract. GM Doug Wilson no decisions can be made on Havlat's return until he is healthy. … Jets coach Claude Noel signed a one-year extension and all assistants will be retained after Winnipeg (24-21-3) missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. … The Avalanche hired Andre Tourigny as an assistant coach to Patrick Roy, former defenseman Adam Foote is rejoining the team as a defense development consultant, and Craig Billington, the vice president of player development and minor league operations, was named assistant GM. Tourigny has spent the past 11 seasons as coach and GM of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. … The Wild re-signed Niklas Backstrom, 35, its No. 1 goaltender of the past seven years, to a three-year, $10.25 million contract to avoid unrestricted free agency. Backstrom, coming off a four-year contract that paid $6 million a season, accepted a nearly 50 percent pay cut, leaving Minnesota with about $2.8 million with which to work — not a lot of room to re-sign restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon, keep Matt Cullen or add free agents.
First Period—1, Boston, Kelly 2 (Seguin, Paille), 7:19. Penalties—Oduya, Chi (hooking), 10:40; Rozsival, Chi (high-sticking), 18:25.
Second Period—2, Chicago, Toews 3, 4:24. Penalties—Shaw, Chi (roughing), 2:24; Seabrook, Chi (tripping), 5:12; Seguin, Bos (hooking), 13:57.
Third Period—3, Boston, Lucic 7 (Krejci), 12:11. 4, Chicago, Bickell 9 (Toews, Keith), 18:44. 5, Chicago, Bolland 3 (Frolik, Oduya), 19:01. Penalties—Kelly, Bos (high-sticking), 14:21. Shots on Goal—Chicago 6-9-16—31. Boston 12-6-7—25. Power-play opportunities—Chicago 0 of 2; Boston 0 of 4. Goalies—Chicago, Crawford 16-7-0 (25 shots-23 saves). Boston, Rask 14-8-0 (31-28). A—17,565 (17,565). T—2:32. Referees—Wes McCauley, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen—Jay Sharrers, Pierre Racicot.
Stanley Cup final
BLACKHAWKS 4, BRUINS 2
Game 1: Blackhawks 4, Bruins 3 3 OT
Game 2: Bruins 2, Blackhawks 1 OT
Game 3: Bruins 2, Blackhawks 0
Game 4: Blackhawks 6, Bruins 5 OT
Game 5: Blackhawks 3, Bruins 1
Monday: Blackhawks 3, Bruins 2