BOSTON – The journey began with Jonathan Toews organizing informal workouts while the NHL lockout raged on and ended with the Blackhawks captain holding the Stanley Cup aloft.
The Hawks’ magical 2013 season concluded with seemingly the only result Toews and Co. would allow – the franchise’s fifth title and second in the last 4 years after a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Monday night at TD Garden.
As with the 2010 champs, the end came in stunning fashion in Game 6 on enemy ice. Trailing by a goal with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining in the third period, the Hawks got goals by Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland 17 seconds apart to stun the Bruins and the crowd of 17,565.
“This is an unbelievable group,” Toews said. “We’ve been through a lot together this year, and this is a sweet way to finish it off.”
Corey Crawford made 23 saves to record the victory – and exorcise some demons after allowing goals in consecutive overtimes in a first-round departure at the hands of the Coyotes last year – and Toews had a goal and an assist for the Hawks.
Chris Kelly and Milan Lucic scored for the Bruins, with Lucic’s goal with 7:49 to go appearing to send the series back to Chicago for Game 7.
But Tuukka Rask couldn’t hold off the Hawks and allowed Bolland’s goal with 58.3 seconds remaining off a rebound of a Johnny Oduya shot.
“How can you call that?” Toews said. “We knew we needed just one bounce there, and obviously that was a big goal for them to go up 2-1. You never know what can happen, so you never stop playing until the end. This is a nice finish not having to go back to Chicago.”
Both teams were bolstered by the returns of top players from injuries suffered during the second period of Game 5.
Toews, who remained on the bench in the third period Saturday night after absorbing several big hits, and the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron (undisclosed) were both in the lineup.
The Bruins dominated the first period, controlling the pace and flow. Crawford bailed out the Hawks with several key saves, including a big stop on Kelly from in close, as the forward attempted to poke in a loose puck.
Kelly finally scored with 7:19 remaining in the period when he received a cross-ice pass from Tyler Seguin and deposited the puck into the open net before Crawford could scramble back into position.
Crawford and the Hawks hung on the rest of the way as they were outshot 12-6 and mounted little offense.
Rask’s toughest save was on a Michael Frolik break, as the winger tried to blow a slap shot past the goalie from the left circle.
Both sides finished the first short-handed as the Bruins’ Jaromir Jagr left the ice after a hit from Bolland, while the Hawks’ Andrew Shaw took a puck to the face off the stick of Shawn Thornton, and Niklas Hjalmarsson limped to the dressing room after getting hit with a shot.
All three players returned to start the second, and after another quick start from the Bruins, Toews halted the momentum and silenced the crowd with his second goal of the series and third of the postseason.
A split-second after a roughing penalty on Shaw expired, Toews stripped Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara of the puck, raced into the Boston zone and unleashed a wicked wrist shot that slipped through Rask’s five-hole.
Lucic scored the go-ahead goal after David Krejci flipped the puck from behind the Hawks net, where it deflected off Toews’ stick and landed right in front of Lucic. The winger pushed it past Crawford to the stick side.
The Hawks put the pressure on in the waning moments and cashed in when Bickell tied it with a one-timer from the slot. That set up Bolland’s winner.