PHILADELPHIA - What might have been a triumphant homecoming has suddenly turned into a desperate battle for survival for the Chicago Blackhawks in their Stanley Cup final with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Chasing their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the Blackhawks made the perfect start to the best-of-seven series when they won the first two games at home.
Victory in the next two games at Philadelphia would have given them the title while a single win would have seen them return home with the chance to clinch the series on home ice on Sunday.
But the celebrations have been put on hold after the Flyers, who defied incredible odds just to reach the final, won the third game in overtime then the fourth 5-3 on Friday to square the series heading into Game 5 back in Chicago.
“We’re excited with going back home,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told a news conference.
“I know the series is wide open. It’s even (but) we get to go home. We have to take advantage of home ice.”
With the first four games all being won by the home team, the Blackhawks look to have an edge with two of the remaining three games in Chicago but know they cannot afford to slip up.
A loss on Sunday could spell disaster with Game 6 scheduled for Philadelphia, where the Blackhawks have not won since 1996.
“As we progress in these playoffs, I just know momentum is an important thing for us to grab early at home,” Quenneville said.
“I still think we have to be smart, disciplined and make them play defense.”
With momentum back in his team’s favour, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette is confident his side can win in Chicago after losing the first games by a solitary goal.
“I said when we left there...I thought we could have won both games,” Laviolette said.
“I like our game, I like what we’re doing.
“In saying that, they probably thought they could have won Game 3, it’s going back and forth quick both ways.
“Nothing has changed for us. Our game hasn’t changed, just the score changed.”