Blackhawks beat Flyers in wild Stanley Cup opener

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By Michael Hirtzer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks took the first step toward ending the NHL's longest championship drought with a wild 6-5 Game One win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

A capacity crowd at the "Madhouse on Madison" endured a nail-biting start to the best-of-seven series but will be eager to do it all again on Monday when Chicago hosts Game Two.

Back in the Blackhawks line-up after sitting out five games, Tomas Kopecky was the toast of the Windy City when he scored the winner midway through the final period, drawing Brian Boucher out his net before sliding the puck in behind the Flyers netminder.

"This time of the year it's all about the battles, really, who wants it more is going to win, and today we wanted it more," Kopecky told reporters. "Coach told me this morning after pre-game skating that I was going to be in.

"I just tried to treat it like any other game. But you just get so much pressure it takes a couple of shifts to get that nervous feeling off you."

Kopecky, who was only back in the Chicago line-up because of an injury to Andrew Ladd, made the most of the opportunity and drew praise from coach Joel Quenneville.

"Remarkable comeback, a good play and good patience on that winning goal," said Quenneville.


Both Blackhawks starting goaltender Antti Niemi and his Flyers counterpart Michael Leighton displayed plenty of Stanley Cup jitters during a first period that produced five goals, the most in the opening period of a final since 1982.

The Flyers drew first blood when Ville Leino's shot caromed past Niemi but Chicago hit back a minute later on a goal from Troy Brouwer and then grabbed the lead when Dave Bolland scored on a short-handed breakaway, firing the puck between Leighton's pads.

But Philadelphia would finish the first period with a 3-2 advantage when Scott Hartnell converted a power-play chance and Danny Briere banged home a loose puck from a goalmouth scramble with less than half a minute to play.

The offensive fireworks continued in the second period, Blair Betts and Arron Asham finding the back of the net for the Flyers while Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Brouwer countered for the Blackhawks to leave the contest deadlocked at 5-5.

Brouwer's second goal of the night chased Leighton from the game and Brian Boucher took his place in the Philadelphia net.

"Our line's been playing well, but not been able to finish our chances," said Brouwer. "We wanted to go out and be a dangerous line every time we were on the ice. I wanted to have a good game and really get some confidence.

"As long as the goals are coming from wherever the goals are coming, then we're OK."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters took the defeat hard.

"You lose the first game of the Stanley Cup finals and its hard to sit here and thumb through the positives," he said.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Indianapolis. Editing by Peter Rutherford)