"Probably toughest for sure, when you know you're a little bit over a minute left and you feel that you've got a chance to get to a Game 7," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And then those two goals go in quickly."
The arena was almost empty — except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows — when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed the 35-pound Cup to Toews, who left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury and wasn't confirmed for the lineup until the morning skate.
The Chicago captain skated with the Cup right over the crease in which the Blackhawks mounted the comeback and in front of the fans in Blackhawks sweaters who lined up along the front row behind the net. Toews banged on the glass while the remaining Bruins fans headed up the runways.
He then continued the tradition of handing it from player to player before the team settled to the side of the faceoff circle for a picture with the trophy they will possess for the next 12 months.
Just like in 2010, they won it in a Game 6 on the road.
"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing. We just ... we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing," said Toews, who scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it 1-1 in the second period, then fed Bickell for the score that tied it with 76 seconds to play.
"This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group," Toews said. "We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."
The Blackhawks opened the season on a 21-0-3 streak and coasted to the Presidents' Trophy that goes to the team with the best regular-season record. But regular-season excellence has not translated into playoff success: Chicago is the first team with the best record to win the Cup since the 2008 Detroit Red Wings.
The Blackhawks went through Minnesota in five games and Detroit in seven, rallying in the Western Conference semifinals from a 3-1 deficit and winning Game 7 in overtime. They got through the defending NHL champion Los Angeles Kings in five games to return to the Cup finals, where Boston was waiting.
Chicago won the first game at home in three overtimes but dropped Game 2 — another overtime — and fell behind 2-1 in the series when it returned to Boston.
After that, it was all Blackhawks.
The tightly contested finals — with three games going a total of five overtimes — may help fans forget the lockout that shortened the season to 48 games and pushed back the opener to Jan. 19. That left the teams still playing ice hockey on a 95-degree day in Boston on June 24, matching the latest date in NHL history.
A Game 7 would have excited most hockey fans even more, and the series seemed to be heading there for the sixth time in 10 years before Bickell and Bolland turned it around.
"Dave Bolland, what else can you say about that guy?" Kane said. "He just shows up in big playoff games."
NOTES: The Blackhawks are 2-5 against the Bruins in playoff series. This was the teams' first matchup in the finals. ... Bolland missed the entire first-round series with an injury. ... Kane and Toews had no goals in the first three games. ... Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, was honored before the game. He went onto the ice with a walker and stood up to receive cheers from the crowd.
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