BOSTON From a spectacular start to a stunning finish, the Chicago Blackhawks put a shine on a tainted National Hockey League season, lifting the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion on Monday to become the toast of the Windy City.
The Blackhawks ended a bruising and riveting battle with the Boston Bruins in dramatic style, scoring twice in the final 76 seconds to steal what seemed an improbable 3-2 victory and take the best-of-seven Final 4-2 over their Original Six rival.
With two Stanley Cups in four years, the Blackhawks can claim bragging rights over Chicago's other major sports teams and return home to be feted with the traditional victory parade through the city.
"It was that type of season where we did a lot of good things," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. "I commend the competitiveness and the perseverance of our team, especially the way things ended today.
"It was that type of season, and it was special."
After a bitter labor dispute was settled and the season finally began after a four month delay, the Blackhawks burst out of the starting blocks with a record 24 game unbeaten run and would spend the entire abbreviated 48 game regular season at the top of the Western division.
But the road to the Stanley Cup does not come without a few bumps.
After easing past the Minnesota Wild in five games in the opening round the Blackhawks were forced to conjure up a miraculous escape in the conference semi-finals, needing a Game Seven overtime winner from Brent Seabrook to see off the Detroit Red Wings.
"It was a great season, a lot of good things," said Quenneville. "We went through losing basically half a team, even more so, coming in the last couple years.
"The highs and the lows that we experienced throughout this playoffs, I guess the disparity is as high as you could see.
"Being down three games against Detroit, on the ropes, life or death situation didn't look very promising, finding a way that definitely gave us a boost.
"I thought we had a great LA series and a great finish."
The final hurdle Chicago had to face on their way to the Final was defending champion Los Angeles Kings and the Blackhawks cleared that with ease ending their reign in five games.
But the Blackhawks saved their best for last, battling the Big Bad Bruins in pulsating Final that featured three overtime games, including one that required three extra periods to decide a winner.
"There's been so many amazing games this playoff series that are very memorable," said Quenneville. "Those endings and the last three rounds is as remarkable endings as you'll ever see.
"I thought we played some very meaningful games through that stretch, particularly later where we learned what it was like playing on big stages because everybody seemed to approach it like a Game Seven.
"The highs and lows of this playoff round, we got tested against some good teams in the Western Conference, and then we might have saw the best team we saw all year in this round."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)