CHICAGO -- "Wild" does not begin to describe the evening. "Wide-open" does not do the action justice. As someone ducking his head into the press box said last night, "Yeah, we all knew we were at the Stanley Cup Final -- but little did we know that it was the 1987 Stanley Cup Final."
But it was like that. It was every bit of that. And because the Blackhawks got the last goal -- by Tomas Kopecky, in the third period -- the Flyers' springtime of resilience will now be tested again. The final score was Blackhawks 6, Flyers 5. And it really was that wild.
Eleven goals -- and none of them were scored by the first-line players on either team, who canceled each other out and left the circus to everyone else.
Where to begin? The Flyers led by 3-2 after the first period, and that was the most goals scored in the opening period of a Stanley Cup Final in 28 years. The Flyers dominated in many ways, outshooting the Blackhawks by 17-9, but the Blackhawks can be devastating on the rush. They weren't able to sustain a lot of offensive possession time, but they made their chances count.
"I think everybody was a little bit nervous, fighting the puck," Danny Briere said. "With the atmosphere in the building it is not easy to control but it's good to have that lead."
To run through a description of all of the goals would be to re-write "War and Peace." Suffice it to say that neither goaltender was all that great, or all that well-supported. Both Antti Niemi of the Blackhawks and Michael Leighton of the Flyers gave them up in about every way you can give them up -- and, when the Blackhawks made it 5-4 at 15:18 of the second period on a shot by Troy Brouwer over Leighton's glove, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had seen enough. Out came Leighton and in came Brian Boucher -- who hadn't played or dressed since spraining both knees in a crease pileup in Game 5 against Boston, on May 10th.
"You know sometimes you just feel bad," Gagne said, in an interview after the second period. "It's not Michael's fault. It's maybe our fault. We kind of left him by himself a couple times on a lot of those goals, so you feel bad for him and we're going to try to go back in and win the game for him."
Here is how the procession of Flyers goal-scorers went to that pont: Ville Leino, Scott Hartnell, Briere and Blair Betts, of all people. Hartnell had a great, active first period. Defenseman Chris Pronger had two assists in the first period and played an enormous 11 minutes, 45 seconds. But it was back and forth and then it was forth and back and it was 5-4 in favor of the Blackhawks when Boucher came in. Then, about 3 1/2 minutes later, it was 5-5 when Arron Asham scored his fourth goal of the playoffs (Briere and Hartnell each getting their second assists of the night).
And that's where it stood, going to the third period. And now, first and foremost, Laviolette will be asked questions about his goaltender for Game 2.