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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Blackhawks win wild Cup opener

CHICAGO - From the first faceoff, the Stanley Cup opener between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers was like a track meet on ice. Tomas Kopecky had the go-ahead goal in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Flyers 6-5 on Saturday night. Fast-paced, up-and-down, the game was played at breakneck speed. Two teams trying to get off to a quick start traded goals for the first two periods. It was almost a question of who would score last in this meeting of franchises that have experienced long title droughts. On this night it happened to be the Blackhawks.
"You lose the first game of the Stanley Cup finals and it's hard to sit here and thumb through the positives right now," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. Kopecky, who had been scratched the previous five playoff games and was in the lineup because of an injury to Andrew Ladd, scored from the left side with a sharp-angled shot that beat backup goalie Brian Boucher at 8:25 of the third. The Flyers failed to hold three one-goal leads. "They came out strong, they were playing really physical," Chicago forward Kris Versteeg said. "We had to match them, and once we did that, I think we did well." Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell had a goal and two assists apiece for the Flyers. Chicago's Troy Brouwer scored two goals, the second putting the Blackhawks ahead 5-4 in the second period and prompting the Flyers to replace starter Michael Leighton with Boucher. "I just wanted to be ready. We wanted to go out and be a dangerous line every time we were on the ice," Brouwer said. Ville Leino, Blair Betts and Arron Asham also scored the Flyers. Dave Bolland had a short-handed goal on a breakaway for the Blackhawks, and Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg also scored for Chicago. The Blackhawks are in their first final series since 1992 and are aiming for the franchise's first championship since 1961. The Flyers, who last made the finals in 1997, are shooting for their first title since the Broad Street Bullies won the second of two straight championships in 1975. The Flyers weren't too bullish Saturday night. They played the entire game without a penalty. Brouwer's second goal, on a pass from Marian Hossa who reversed himself behind the net, came from the left circle with 4:42 left in the second, sending ex-Blackhawks goalie Leighton to the bench. Leighton had been brilliant since taking over in the second round. He entered the game with a 6-1 record, including three shutouts, after replacing an injured Boucher in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins. Leighton entered with a 1.45 goals-against average and save percentage of .948. He was pulled after giving up his fifth goal in just 20 shots. Chicago's Antti Niemi made 27 saves for the win.
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