BOSTON -- Despite a familiarity with the big moment, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane couldn't comprehend what he had accomplished Monday night.
His Blackhawks had just finished a comeback for the ages -- scoring the tying and winning goals just 17 seconds apart in the dying seconds of Game 6 to fashion a 3-2 victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden and claim the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons -- and the usually unflappable Kane was at a loss.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had already handed Kane the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he already had a twirl with the Stanley Cup hoisted above his head, and had posed for the team picture with the most cherished trophy his sport knows.
Now, though, he was at a loss for words.
"It is an unbelievable feeling," said Kane, who scored the winning goal when Chicago won the trophy against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. "My head is spinning. I don’t know what really happened the past 20 minutes."
What happened is the Blackhawks showed the heart of a champion erasing a 2-1 deficit with Bryan Bickell's extra-attacker goal with 1:16 remaining and the winning goal by Dave Bolland 17 seconds later. Suddenly, despair had turned into delirium for the Blackhawks, who frolicked wildly around the TD Garden ice.
And, though Kane did not factor in the scoring of any of his team's goals in the Cup-clinching game -- he was on the ice for the first and second -- there was no question this celebration likely wouldn't have happened without all the earlier contributions he made.
Kane scored two goals in the Blackhawks’ first 15 postseason games this spring and questions began to be asked about his slump. Then, just like that -- with the stakes at their highest -- Kane found his scoring groove.
In the final two games of the Western Conference Final against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, Kane scored four goals. His hat trick in Game 5 put that series to bed.
In the Final, he managed one assist in the first three games as Chicago fell into a 2-1 hole. In a wild Game 4, after being reunited with Jonathan Toews and Bickell, he had a goal and an assist when Chicago took a 6-5 overtime decision to even the series. In Game 5, a 3-1 victory at United Center, Kane finished with two goals, including the game-winner.
What, exactly, caused the turnaround?
"I don't really have a specific answer," Kane said. "I think it was Game 4 in L.A., I knew I needed to get the puck and start moving with it and try to create some chances. It ended up working out. I mean, you're playing with two great players with Toews and Bickell. They made hockey really easy the past couple weeks for me.
"We actually came up with a name for myself this morning, calling me the 'Benefish', for the beneficiary of all their hard work. I had a couple chances to finish and ended up doing that, so got to give them the credit."
Certainly, Kane had help in waking up his game, but he was the one who converted on the opportunities that were suddenly coming against what had been a stingy Boston defense, using his speed to devastate a Bruins blue line that preferred to play a physical game.
As a reward, he became the third straight American to win the Conn Smythe, joining Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick (2012) and Boston netminder Tim Thomas (2011). New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch is the other American to win it, doing so in 1994.
Kane finished the postseason with nine goals and 19 points, second to Boston Bruins forward David Krejci (27 points).
"I’m sure it will be something looking back that no one can take away from you," Kane said. "Someone said it is the fourth American to win the award. I’m blessed. I play with great players all playoffs and wouldn’t have been capable of this without my teammates. There were other guys who could have won too. You look at [goalie Corey] Crawford, maybe he got snubbed a little bit. [Bickell] and [forward Patrick Sharp] -- but it is a great feeling."
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