CHICAGO — They did it under the five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters.
They did it under the banners honoring legends Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Keith Magnuson, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito.
The Chicago Blackhawks did it at home.
For the first time in 77 years, the Hawks celebrated winning a Stanley Cup in Chicago when they topped the Lightning 2-0 in Game 6 of the final on Monday night before a crowd of 22,424 delirious fans at the United Center.
Duncan Keith, who captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs, and Patrick Kane scored while goaltender Corey Crawford made 25 saves to help lift the Hawks to their third Cup in the last six seasons.
The Hawks reeled off three consecutive victories to capture the best-of-seven series 4-2 and finished the season a perfect 33-0-0 when leading a game after two periods.
Keith sent the crowd into a frenzy when he scored in the waning moments of the second. The two-time Norris Trophy winner fired a long shot that Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stopped but he yielded a rebound. Like a point guard following his shot, Keith swooped in and batted the rebound past Bishop’s glove.
That set off the first chants of “We Want the Cup! We Want the Cup!” from the Hawks faithful.
They were heard again when Kane made it 2-0. With the Hawks clinging to the lead late in the third, the winger snapped a six-game goalless skid when he took a terrific cross-slot pass from Brad Richards and fired in a one-timer from the right circle to set off a raucous celebration that lasted until the final horn.
“We wanted it. We wanted it for each other, for the city,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “In so many ways, winning a championship like this in your own city in some ways transcends the sport.
“I’m trying my best to explain it but it’s pretty tough. It’s definitely overwhelming.”
Marian Hossa was happy for the fans.
“It’s a special moment. We knew coming into this game that we wanted to win it for our fans,” he said. “We won it on the road two times. It’s a special moment to win it here. We are so pleased. What an amazing group of players.”
And they’re not done yet.
“We talked about after we won our second won we said ultimately if you could ever win one here in Chicago that would be the ultimate Stanley Cup.” Team President John McDonough said. “I think they’re going to be celebrating in Chicago the entire summer.
“Our goal was to get one and try to get the franchise on the right track and get this orchestrated and the process and the system and everything together and hire the right people. Apparently we have. What a reward for the city of Chicago. But we’re not done. We’re not done.”
Kane echoed those feelings.
“It’s special,” the winger said. “You have to realize how fortunate you are, right? It’s not something everyone is going through, not just in the game of hockey but pretty much any sport to have this opportunity to play for three in six years.
“We’ve played in a lot of meaningful hockey games. I don’t want to say it’s something we’re accustomed to, but we’re fortunate to be in these situations and we’ve worked hard for it too. It’s something we all deserve.
“Does it happen every year? No. But we have a pretty good group in here, a lot of leadership, a lot of experience, a lot of guys who have been around the block once or twice to see a thing or two in this game. Our experience helps us. Knowing that we have done it before, knowing that we have been in situations and played in a lot of big games helps us in these situations. It’s a trickle-down effect from the top of the organization to the bottom, all the players, management, everything. It’s just a good group.”
It is a group led by Joel Quenneville, who added a third Cup to his resume after guiding the team to championships against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and Boston Bruins in ‘13, with both clinching games coming on the road.
“It’s a compliment to the organization from the outset, having patience, having a ton of skill, a lot of real good kids back in ‘07, ‘08, those years,” Quenneville said of the franchise’s success. “We’ve gone through a couple of years where the transition from our team that ended the year to the start of the next season almost was 50 percent gone. (General Manager) Stan Bowman has done a great job as far as rebuilding, retooling on the go this year, and at the deadline made some acquisitions to give us some experience as well.
“(It was a) different evolution each one of the years. But it shows you in this game that you have to be ready to move along and adapt with the salary cap world. (And) it really talks about … the guys who have been here from Day One, the way they prepare, the way they compete, how important it is for those guys to win.”
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