Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) – For the third time in six seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions.
Duncan Keith, the team’s iron man and anchor on the blue line, scored late in the second period and Corey Crawford was marvelous in net as the Blackhawks posted a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Finals on Monday night.
Keith was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player after matching a franchise record for points by a defenseman in a postseason with 21, which was set by Chris Chelios in 1992. He also became the fourth skater since 1998 to log over 700 minutes in a postseason.
“Great selection, right guy, based on a lot of reasons,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of Keith being unanimously selected as the postseason MVP. “But a huge goal for us tonight. Active in the play. Defends as well as he does, he still creates a lot of offense for us against top players.”
Crawford turned in a 25-save shutout and Patrick Kane also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938.
“I’m very proud to be a part of a group like that,” Keith humbly said. “I think (the Conn Smythe Trophy) could’ve went to a lot of different guys on our team.”
Ben Bishop, who battled an injury throughout the series, made 30 saves for the Lightning.
“We’ve got a group of young men in there, but they’re kids at heart, and they’re crushed,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper commented. “It was really hard to look at them and see how crushed they truly are.”
After several quality chances, Chicago’s most reliable defenseman finally broke the scoreless deadlock.
Keith moved in from the neutral and took Kane’s saucer pass at the blue line. The star defenseman fired a shot from the top of the slot, but Bishop made the save. Keith danced around Lightning forward Cedric Paquette and wristed the rebound over the Lightning netminder’s glove.
Brent Seabrook nearly gave Chicago a two-goal lead after Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat went off for elbowing with 47 seconds left in the period, but his shot rang off the post.
Kane sealed the win with 5:14 left in regulation. Brandon Saad dropped the puck back to Brad Richards at the left circle. Kane accepted a no-look pass from Richards and fired the puck into the net.
The Lightning had an opportunity to mount a rally when Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins was called for tripping with 3:39 to play.
Bishop was pulled with three minutes remaining to make it a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Lightning couldn’t solve Crawford, who became the second goaltender in the last 40 years to post a shutout in a Stanley Cup Finals clincher on home ice.
When the horn at the United Center sounded, Crawford threw off his mask and was surrounded by his teammates, who celebrated the sixth championship in franchise history.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews handed the Stanley Cup off to defenseman Kimmo Timonen first. The 40-year-old defenseman, who was acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, won his first title to cap a solid career. Timonen is retiring after playing 16 NHL seasons.
“It’s been a long journey,” Timonen said. “I’m happy it’s over. I’m leaving this game as a Stanley Cup champion.”
Less than three minutes into the game, Nikita Kucherov, playing despite missing most of Game 5 due to an injury, raced through the neutral zone on a breakaway, but Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya broke up the play with a timely stick check.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos nearly scored his first goal of the series, but rang a shot off the crossbar at 7:50.
“Pretty tough feeling,” Stamkos said following the game. “You just never know when you get this opportunity again so it’s tough to swallow right now.”
Moments later, the Blackhawks went on the power play after Paquette tripped Toews in the offensive zone. Teuvo Teravainen missed on a redirect from in tight of Marian Hossa’s cross-slot feed.
On another Chicago power play, Kane sent the puck under a diving defender and across the goalmouth to Toews, who quickly tapped the puck on net, but Bishop made a sprawling save to keep the game scoreless.
Crawford withstood an aggressive sequence from Tampa Bay’s “Triplets” line — Tyler Johnson, Palat and Kucherov — with under two minutes left in the first period as Kucherov sent a pass to Jason Garrison, who had his one-timer blocked by Hossa.
Tampa Bay came out firing in the second period, registering four shots over the opening four minutes.
Just over a minute into the middle frame, Stamkos raced into the offensive zone all alone on a breakaway, slowed down and stickhandled multiple times, but had his low shot stopped by Crawford’s pad.
Chicago moved in on net with a 3-on-1, but Desjardins could not catch up to a lead pass and Bishop slid out of his net to disrupt the play.
The Blackhawks continued to push the pace midway through the second. Kris Versteeg’s deflection of Trevor van Riemsdyk’s point shot off an offensive zone faceoff trickled through the blue paint and wide of the net.
Chicago is the first team to win three titles in a six-season span since Detroit in 1997, 1998 and 2002 …The last defenseman to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy was Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer in 2007 … Chicago finished the postseason with a 9-2 record at home.