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Greg Wyshynski

Niemi rebounds when it counts, Blackhawks lead Flyers 2-0

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The quintessential moment for the Chicago Blackhawks in their Game 2 Stanley Cup Finals victory arrived with 7:43 left in the game.

The Philadelphia Flyers were buzzing the offensive zone as they had for most of the third period, eventually outshooting Chicago 15-4. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen(notes) sent a point shot that was deflected by Mike Richards(notes) and kicked away at the last moment by Antti Niemi(notes). The puck went to Simon Gagne(notes) of the Flyers to Niemi's left post, with a gaping net ready to receive his first goal of the Finals ... until Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith(notes) stick-checked him and Niemi made another save on a slowly gliding puck.

It perfectly captured the expertly coached and executed defensive game Chicago used in its 2-1 victory over the Flyers, taking a 2-0 series lead.

They blocked or altered 18 Flyers shots. They had 14 takeaways to Philly's 6. Coach Joel Quenneville matched his lines and defensive parings in response to what the Flyers did in Game 1, deploying Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook(notes) against Daniel Briere (4 points in Game 1; zero points and 1 shot in Game 2) and Scott Hartnell(notes) (3 points in Game 1; zero points and zero shots in Game 2).

Whatever the defense and checking lines didn't snuff out, Niemi stopped, save for one funky bouncing goal by Simon Gagne. He made 32 saves, and Mike Richards said he kept Chicago in the game late, which is an understatement.

Niemi's been the stealth MVP for the Blackhawks this postseason for doing exactly what he did in Game 2: Bounce back from an average or poor effort in the previous game. He hasn't lost back-to-back games in the playoffs; his win on Monday night gave him seven straight playoff victories dating back to Game 6 against Vancouver.

"You gotta commend his attitude and his preparation," said Quenneville.

Guess Scotty Bowman's having the last laugh after all.

A couple of quick thoughts:

• Key moment in Game 2: The Blackhawks' penalty kill that bridged the second and third periods. A goal there for the Flyers completely changes the rest of the game; instead, the Blackhawks limited them to one shot on Niemi.

Chris Pronger's(notes) ice time decreased (27:52) from Game 1 but he did the job again, as the Toews/Kane/Byfuglien trio went pointless goal-less for a second straight game. (Ed. Note: Buff had a helper in Game 2.)

• On the goals: Marian Hossa's(notes) writing a hockey redemption story with his goal in Game 2 and three points in the series. Meanwhile, Jeremy Roenick(notes) nailed the Ben Eager(notes) goal 28 seconds later: It was a sneaky shot from the skates of a defenseman that fooled Michael Leighton(notes), who otherwise proved his worth in this game.

• Finally, Dan Carcillo started strong, chirping up a storm, agitating, changing the energy on the ice (and, unfortunately, taking a penalty). By the third period, he was a non-factor with just three shifts, as Simon Gagne was moved back with Richards and Jeff Carter(notes). But it was fun having him in this game, from the back-and-forth with Adam Burish(notes) to what Burish called his best hit of the season.

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