Game Recap: STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME 1 – Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Well, I doubt many people saw that coming in Game One.

Leino and Hartnell celebrate the first goal of the game

No, I’m not talking about the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks defended home ice in Game One.  And no, I’m talking about the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers showed that they can absolutely compete with the ‘Hawks at the highest level.  Instead, I’m talking about the final score of Game One.

6-5!?

An old-fashioned shootout highlighted the first contest of what looks to be a very exciting, as well as long Stanley Cup Final in 2010.  It was a game that had ten different goal scorers on the two teams combined, and a game that was overshadowed by two bad goaltending performances on either side.  Not to mention, the top two lines on the Flyers and the Blackhawks – Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien – combined for 0 points and a -16 rating.  The role players on either team came through in a big way, and, in the end, it was normally a healthy scratch that provided the “hero” label for Chicago in Tomas Kopecky.

The Flyers certainly came out strong in Game One, playing perhaps their best first period of the season en route to having a 3-2 lead at the end of the frame.  The Flyers had three first period powerplays, and while they weren’t perfect – they allowed a shorthanded goal on one of them – they still controlled the majority of play as a result.  Ville Leino started the scoring for the Flyers just six and a half minutes into the contest, a result of a scramble in front of Antti Niemi that showed a bouncing puck fall into the back of the Chicago net.  The lead didn’t last all that long, however, as the Blackhawks evened the score just a minute, twelve seconds later on an absolute rip by Troy Brouwer.  The next Flyers powerplay ended up hurting them, as the puck bounced on Braydon Coburn at the blue-line, and was picked up shorthanded by Dave Bolland, who raced in on a breakaway and shot a spinning puck which hit Leighton’s stick and bounced behind him into the net.  The United Center was once again rocking, as the ‘Hawks had reclaimed the lead.  However, as was the case much of the evening, the Flyers fought back.  The Flyers third powerplay ended up being their coming out party with the man advantage as another scramble in front of Antti Niemi resulted in a loose puck coming out to Scott Hartnell, who played as big a game as anyone on the ice last night, and buried the shot to make it 2-2.  Then, to cap off a strong road period by Philadelphia, Danny Briere buried a shot inside the circles and made it 3-2 Flyers heading into the intermission.  The goal came with only 27 seconds left in the period.

Kopecky scores the game winner past Boucher to make it 6-5 Chicago

As the second period began, all of Philadelphia was buzzing as a result of Roy Halladay’s first career perfect game – the 20th in baseball history.  While history was made, the Flyers quickly coughed up their lead.  Patrick Sharp walked in on a 2-on-1 just a little over a minute into the second, to even the score up at 3-3.  The Flyers got a gigantic goal from fourth liner Blair Betts, who picked up a loose puck at the top of the circle and performed a snipe show on Niemi to get the Flyers the lead back.  Chicago, however, would answer with the next two goals, to first tie the game at 4-4 on a goal by Kris Versteeg, then a score awarded to Troy Brouwer (second of the night) would give the Blackhawks the lead seemingly into the third period.  It did, for certain, chase Michael Leighton from the game, as he was pulled by Peter Laviolette in favor of Brian Boucher, who had just returned from injury.  The Flyers goaltender filled in admirably, making all necessary stops in the remainder of the second, and the Flyers would pull even with under two minutes left on a one-time goal from Arron Asham off a pass from Danny Briere.  The score, both shockingly, yet at this point almost expectedly, was 5-5 heading into the third period.

Chicago celebrates the Game One win

In the third period, Brian Boucher stood tall, making five of six possible saves.  Although he did miss one when it mattered.  Tomas Kopecky, who had been placed into the game after Andrew Ladd was ruled out with an upper body injury, scored the game winner as he got Boucher leaning and beat him just inside the near post to make it a 6-5 game.  Unfortunately, that goal would hold up and end up being the deciding factor tonight, as the Flyers dropped Game One by a score of 6-5.

The game wasn’t pretty, and Game Two now becomes that much more important.  It’s not necessarily a must win, but the Flyers need to do their best to snatch home-ice advantage in Game Two.

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