The Chicago Blackhawks took a 2-0 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night on two quick goals in the second period by Marian Hossa and Ben Eager. Antti Niemi shut down the offensive attack of the Flyers as the series shifts back to Philadelphia.
At one point, Niemi was driving a zamboni in his native Finland to earn some extra money. Now, he has his team poised to win the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blackhawks could win the championship in Philadelphia on Friday.
The Flyers were desperately trying to score in the third period after a Simone Gange powerplay goal. Niemi made 14 of his 32 saves in the period. The goalie had a bounce-back game after allowing five goals in Game 1.
“I think our ‘D’ played maybe a little bit better in front of the net in blocking shots and letting me see the puck,” Niemi said. “But it’s always a little bit about the luck, too, how you see the puck, and how it bounces.”
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It was a complete team performance by the Blackhawks who have won seven straight in the playoffs. Their stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane failed to record any points in the game. However, the defense stepped up and like any Stanley Cup champion, found a way to win.
Marian Hossa opened the scoring for the Blackhawks when he crashed the net and put back a rebound to give the ‘Hawks a 1-0 advantage. Seconds later, Ben Eager blasted a wrist shot past the glove of Michael Leighton. The goal ended up being the game winner, as the Flyers would get one back in the third period.
“I thought their goaltender played extremely well in the third period. We had more than enough looks to tie up that game,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Chicago goalie has posted a 14-4 record in the playoffs. His teammates say he has been able to follow bad games with good games all season, a big reason why they have made it this far.
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“We call him the octopus because he’s got arms and legs going everywhere,” Blackhawks forward Adam Burish said. “He was special tonight. Niemi was unbelievable in that third period. Some of the pucks, I don’t know how he saw them.”
After scoring five goals in Game 1, the Flyers were stymied by the Blackhawks. Hossa had the lone goal for the team, his first since the conference semifinals against Vancouver.
“It bugged me definitely,” Hossa said. “I tried not to get frustrated but I was waiting for something. Like I said, a garbage goal.”
NHL Sportsbooks have set the Blackhawks as the favorites over the Flyers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night.