BOSTON — An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season.
Three straight victories to clinch the title.
From beginning to end, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the 1:16 and the Blackhawks staged a stunning rally to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 on Monday night for their second NHL championship in four seasons.
Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago in the first final round between Original Six since 1979.
“I still can’t believe that finish,” Crawford said. “Oh my God, we never quit.”
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.
Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 — exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.
Boston, needing a win to extend the series to a deciding Game 7, came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly’s second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.
Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.
Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago’s captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat goalie Tuukka Rask between his pads.
It was Toews’ second goal in three games. Of Chicago’s last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.
Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.
The play that led to Kelly’s goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.
Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.
It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.
Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Michal Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.
Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Milan Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.
After having no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.
With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston’s Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before getting up and skating off slowly.
Toews was on Chicago’s first shift of the game. Bergeron had left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury after playing just 49 seconds in the second period.
Five of the last nine Cup finals have gone seven games, including in 2011 when the Bruins overcame a 3-2 series deficit and won their first championship since 1972 by winning Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 in Vancouver.
In 2010, Chicago won its first NHL title since 1961 on Patrick Kane’s overtime goal in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. As they did this year, the Blackhawks won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
This year’s finals have been extremely tight, with three of the first five games going to overtime. Chicago won the opener in three overtimes, then Boston won 2-1 in one extra period and 2-0. The Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime win in a wild Game 4 in Boston before returning home for Saturday night’s win.
Teams that have won Game 5 after splitting the first four have won the Cup 15 of 22 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. But the loser of Game 5 the past six times has won four championships, including the Bruins against the Canucks. Last season, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in six games. This season, the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games to reach the Cup finals, clinching the series on Kane’s goal in overtime.