Defense takes a holiday in Game 1

Hawks win wild one on Kopecky's 3rd-period goal

May 30, 2010|By Shannon Ryan, Tribune newspapers

CHICAGO — As part of a morning pep talk, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told his players that they had prepared and labored for 10 months to reach this point of the season.Veteran winger Ian Laperriere piped up that he had waited 15 years for this opportunity.

Blackhawks fans might remind them that they've endured 49 years hoping for a Stanley Cup trophy to make a trip to Chicago.

Both teams played with plenty of pent up emotion in a bombs-away scoring-spree Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night at the United Center with the Blackhawks walking away with an 6-5 victory.

From the start, the Blackhawks and Flyers matched the intense pitch of national anthem cheers from 22,312 fans in the sellout crowd, scoring more first-period goals in a final since the Islanders and Canucks met in 1982.

Neither team let up.

But it was a game of unlikely scorers and undependable defenses.

The Blackhawks were dealing with the absence of veteran winger Andrew Ladd, who had missed practice since Game 5 of the conference finals with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Tomas Kopecky, who had not played since Game 5 against Vancouver, took Ladd's place on the line.

It didn't seem to hurt the Hawks as Kopecky scored the game-winning goal in the third period on an assist from Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland.

Defense will be on both teams' must-do list for Game 2.

Flyers goalkeeper Michael Leighton added another dismal Chicago experience to his memory.

After giving up five goals in less than two periods, the Flyers pulled their goalie – a one-time Blackhawk who never thrived in Chicago – for Brian Boucher.

Boucher had missed seven straight playoff games with injuries to both knees that he suffered in Game 5 of the conference semifinals.

Leighton had gone 6-1 through the playoffs with three shutouts but was yanked after allowing Troy Brouwer to score his second goal with less than five minutes remaining in the second period.

Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi won't add details of his performance to his resume either – except for maybe that game-saving block in the final minutes.

Despite all the scoring, the teams need to relocate some of their star players' fire.

Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane were held scoreless and were a combined minus-nine.

The Flyers didn't receive scoring from Claude Giroux or Simon Gagne, who were a combined minus-five.

It was the first time that the building on Madison St., which is synonymous with Michael Jordan and NBA titles, hosted a Stanley Cup finals game.

sryan@tribune.com

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