Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart in the second period, and Chicago held on for a 2-1 win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals at United Center.
This game was a different beast from the 6-5 offensive show in Game 1, which Chicago won, and the Hawks now hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series after winning their seventh playoff game in a row.
Antti Niemi, lit up for five goals on 32 shots in the first game, had a terrific performance over the last two periods of this contest, as he stopped 29 shots in the final 40 minutes and finished the game with 32 saves.
Simon Gagne scored the lone goal, while Michael Leighton, back in net after being pulled late in the second period of Game 1, stopped 24 shots for the Flyers, who will look to rally at home, as the series heads to Philadelphia for the next two games with Game 3 set for Wednesday at the Wachovia Center.
Philadelphia and Chicago are both looking to end lengthy championship droughts. The Flyers last hoisted hockey’s symbol of excellence following a successful defense in 1975, while the Blackhawks are searching for their first title in 49 years, the longest current dry spell in the NHL.
Trailing 2-0 in the third period, the Flyers made it a one-goal game 5:20 in with a power-play marker. Mike Richards backhanded a pass from the left boards, and Gagne one-timed the rolling puck past Niemi, who was being screened by Jeff Carter.
The goal sparked the Flyers, as the team took the play to Chicago over the next several minutes and generated several opportunities, but they were unable to bury any of them.
A shot from the left point was redirected on net and the rebound kicked out to the right side. It went off of Gagne, but Niemi was able to stretch the left pad out to stop it with around 7 1/2 minutes to play.
Much of the remainder of the game was played in Chicago’s end as Philadelphia continued to dominate play.
With just over two minutes to play, Ville Leino made a move to get past his defender for a clear shot at the inside left circle, but Niemi came up with the save.
Philly got Leighton out of the net with just under two minutes to play for the extra attacker, but Niemi came up with the stops.
The game was nearly sealed as Patrick Sharp had a clean look at the open net, but his shot hit the right post, and Philly was called for icing with 19.4 seconds to play.
The Flyers were able to quickly get the puck down the other end, but Chicago grabbed control of the puck and cleared it for the win.
The first goal came 17:09 into the second period, as Duncan Keith lobbed a shot on net from the slot and the rebound sat in front. Sharp, parked in front of the net, took a swipe at it before Hossa was able to chip it in from the right side.
Moments later, a neutral zone turnover enabled Chicago to gain the zone, and Eager’s wrister from the right wing found its way over the glove of Leighton for a 2-0 lead.
Philadelphia’s best chance in the opening frame came with about 12 1/2 minutes to play. The Flyers had an extra player on the ice due to a delayed penalty call on Chicago, and Ian Laperriere found himself wide open for a one- timer from the slot, but he banged the shot off the post.
Chicago had a power play, its first of the series, later in the first when Blair Betts was called for cross-checking, but the Philadelphia penalty killers kept the Blackhawks from setting anything up.
The Blackhawks got another power play with 2:33 left in the first when Richards was called for elbowing. This power play was much more active as the Blackhawks set up a couple of plays, but they were unable to cash in, and the game went into the first intermission with no score.
The Blackhawks got their third power play of the game 5:08 into the second when Richards was called for hooking, but they were unable to get anything going on the advantage.
Shortly after the power play expired, Richards found himself on a breakaway, but Niemi came up with the pad save to keep it scoreless.
Chicago had a 3-on-2 break a bit later and got an open shot as Sharp threw a one-timer from the slot on net, but Leighton came up with the pad save, and Chicago was unable to take advantage of the rebound.
With under six minutes to play in the second, Jordan Hendry cranked a shot from the top of the left circle with traffic in front, but Leighton came up with the save and didn’t give up a rebound.
Moments later, Aaron Asham was wide open for a one-timer at the left circle that was going to the right corner, but Niemi flashed the glove and swallowed it up.
Philadelphia has lost seven straight Cup games dating back to Game 7 of the 1987 Finals against Edmonton. The team was then swept by Detroit in 1997…Chicago forward Andrew Ladd sat out again with an upper-body injury. He sat out Game 1 and was replaced by Tomas Kopecky, who scored the game- winning goal in the opening contest and played again in Game 2…Philadelphia had forward Dan Carcillo and defenseman Oskars Bartulis in the lineup in place of forward James van Riemsdyk and defenseman Ryan Parent…Philly went 1-for-3 on the power play while Chicago was 0-for-3…Hossa’s goal was his third of the playoffs and first since Game 3 against Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinals.