It seemed destined for overtime, just as three of the first five games had gone in the Stanley Cup Final.
Left wing Bryan Bickell had tied the game for the Blackhawks, 2-2, at the 18:44 mark of the third period and it seemed a foregone conclusion that extra time was going to be required to decide Game 6 Monday night.
But just 17.7 seconds after Bickell gave his teammates a fistful of hope, fourth-line center Dave Bolland gave his team the Stanley Cup on a rebound of a Johnny Oduya shot that sneaked past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and stunned the sellout crowd at TD Garden.
If the Bruins’ motto was, “There is no quit in this team,’’ it surely was personified by the Blackhawks’ perseverance at the end.
They didn’t want a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday, even if it was back home at the United Center.
Bolland was an unlikely hero.
The 27-year-old, who hails from Mimico, Ontario, missed the entire Minnesota series at the start of the playoffs because of injury.
Through the Detroit and Los Angeles series, a span of 12 games, he earned just a single assist.
But Bolland came to life against the Bruins.
In the five games before potting the Cup winner, he had two goals and two assists.
“It’s a huge goal and I give it to the defense and the team,’’ said Bolland, as he celebrated on the ice. “It went back to the ‘D,’ he shot it and it was just sitting in front and I had to tap it in.’’
The Bruins came out strong in the opening period but could only score one goal. That set the stage for the late twist of fate.
“They’re a great team, they battled to the end,’’ said Bolland. “They’re always battling hard but I know with our team, we always battle to the end as well.’’
Bolland won a Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and said there was no real difference between raising it the first time and raising Monday night. He said he appreciates them both.
“It’s huge, the second Stanley Cup is always big,’’ he said. “As a coach like [Joel Quenneville], we’ve got to roll the lines and put the guys who are playing and who’s doing a good job. It’s a role. It doesn’t matter where you play, it matters [that] you win.’’
Because of the previous overtimes, Bolland said he could understand why people would think that Game 6 was shaping up to go that way.
“For sure, you could think we were going to Game 7,’’ he said. “When you’re down, 2-1, going in [to the latter stages of the third], you never think about that. You’re always staying positive and you’re always looking at the brighter end.’’
During the lockout, when the NHL season was in danger of not being played, Bolland maintained hope they’d be playing at some point because he believed the Blackhawks had what it took to make a deep run.
“We always imagine our year ending this way,’’ said Bolland. “I think when you come into the season, you’re always looking at that Stanley Cup and you’re always looking to win it.
“I know every year I come into training camp, you’re always looking to win that Stanley Cup. Everything went well and look where we are now.’’
Having had a frustrating season at times because of injuries, Bolland said he looked forward to reveling in what the Blackhawks accomplished, in addition to scoring the winning goal.
“It’s probably the biggest satisfaction I’ve ever had,’’ he said. “A hockey season is up and down and I’ve had a roller coaster year with injuries. You battle through them.’’
One of the most nervous people in the building was Bolland’s wife, Julia, who is almost seven months pregnant.
“I almost gave birth,’’ said Julia, who joined her husband on the ice.
“I didn’t know it was him for a second and then I started crying. In my mind and my heart, I thought he was going to score the winning goal. But then when it happened, I said, ‘No, this can’t be real.’ ’’
But real it was.
The Blackhawks are champions for the second time in four years.
“Down to the wire,’’ said Bolland, “we all did it as a team.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.