BOSTON — When you start your season 21-0-3, this is the only way it can end, by winning the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks lived up to the lofty expectations their spectacular regular season placed on their shoulders Monday night by stunning the Boston Bruins 3-2 at TD Garden to capture their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 of the third period in one of the most stunning endings in Stanley Cup history.
Bickell poked in a pass from Jonathan Toews at 18:44 and Bolland scored during a scramble at 19:01 and — poof — instead of getting ready for a Game 7 on Wednesday, the Hawks were hoisting the Cup.
Patrick Kane, whose 2 goals in Game 5 were a key to the Cup win, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Hawks goalie Corey Crawford said. “I don’t know how many times we played for the Stanley Cup in road hockey or whatever. Everyone battled together; every guy in that room was behind each other and never got down.”
The Bruins weren’t going to go down without a fight, and they didn’t.
It was Boston getting a late goal from Milan Lucic that had the Bruins looking forward to a Game 7. Lucic was left untouched in front of the net with 7:49 to play to score what appeared was going to be the winning goal.
But then lightning struck in the form of 2 Hawk goals in 17 seconds.
“I don’t think you can call that,” Toews said. “We knew we needed just one bounce there. Obviously, that was a big goal by them there to go up 2-1. You never know what can happen. This is a nice finish not having to go back to Chicago.”
Toews made the pass across to a wide-open Bickell for his ninth goal of the playoffs.
“Tazer just got it in front and I just buried it,” Bickell said. “What a roller coaster that was to finish it off the way we did. With this group of guys, it was a great season and it couldn’t have ended better.
“We threw everything at them. We were sitting on the bench saying we’re going back home for Game 7, but we never gave up. We got guys in front and good things happened.”
On Bolland’s goal, Johnny Oduya got the puck to the net and Bolland finished the play sending the Garden into dead silence.
“It was a huge goal and I give it to the defense and the team,” Bolland said. “It went back to (Oduya), he shot it and I put it in.
“It was the best (goal) I ever scored; it’s better than sex almost. As a team we battled hard to the end. The second Stanley Cup is always big.”
There were eight of these Hawks around in 2010 when they won the first Cup.
“It’s two different feelings,” Patrick Sharp said. “It feels just as good. I’m happy to be part of the second one, too.”
Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz was giddy as he praised coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman for the jobs they did this season.
“We want to be positioned to win every year, and we’re going to do that every year,” Wirtz said. “We know we can’t win it every year, but if we get in position, that’s our job. We want to be very, very good every year.”
Toews was handed the Cup by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and quickly gave it to Michal Handzus and then Jamal Mayers, both first-time winners.
“What a great gesture by Johnny Toews and the captains,” Mayers said. “It was amazing, an amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a roller coaster. I can’t believe it actually happened.”
In all, there are 18 Hawks who won the Cup for the first time.
“I’m trying to hold back (the tears), but it’s tough,” said Andrew Shaw, who had blood running down his face as he spoke to reporters. “This is an unbelievable feeling. I’ve never experienced anything like it my entire life. I can’t feel anything right now.”
The Hawks were lucky to get out of the first period behind only 1-0. They were outshot 12-6 and hammered by the Bruins physically, yet trailed by only a goal thanks to the work of Crawford.
Toews scored an enormous goal at 4:24 of the second period just as the Bruins’ third power play was expiring.
Racing down the right side, Toews beat Tuukka Rask to the far side with a blistering wrist shot to make it 1-1.
The Bruins got their only goal from Chris Kelly at 7:19 during a battle of fourth lines.
Rask said on the Bickell goal he was concerned with Toews behind the net.
“I think it was Toews,” Rask said. “He had the puck and I had to respect him. I thought there was another guy kind of in the middle. Zee (Chara) was there, but the guy shot against the grain five-hole.
“The last one was just a deflection, post, and I got my stick there but not strong enough.”
ŸFollow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.