Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called the 6-5 victory a "shootout at the O.K. Corral," but it was more of a return to the days of goal fests, before Billy Ray became better known as Miley's dad and the great darkness of the Dead Puck Era descended on the NHL. This was a game that would have been familiar to Wayne Gretzky's Oilers of the 1980s and Lemieux's Penguins of the early 1990s, a throwback night when both teams could have simply thrown the goalies back into the dressing room.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette actually did, excusing starter Michael Leighton in the second period after five goals. The early dismissal maybe marked the end of the remarkable run that begin in Game 5 of the second-round series in Boston when a goalie who has been waived as often as Larry King's wives replaced an injured Brian Boucher and carried the Flyers through the historic comeback against the Bruins -- and then had three shutouts against Montreal in the conference final. If this were midnight striking for Leighton, who is No. 100 on nhlnumbers.com's list of the 100 goalie cap hits, it occurred slightly before 9 p.m. CDT.
Anyway Laviolette now must decide whether to go back to Boucher, who miraculously recovered from what appeared to be a playoff-ending knee injury against Boston, or take another chance with Leighton, whose rebound on the first shot of the game was so fat that it practically waddled into the slot.
"I don't think both teams were too worried about defense," said Leighton, who faced 20 shots. "They were worried about scoring goals. Of course I'm disappointed I got pulled. But every time they got a good opportunity, they were scoring goals. I've got to make a few of those saves."
No kidding. Boucher was better, stopping 12 of 13. But when he needed to make just one more save, he overplayed Hawks winger Tomas Kopecky, came well out beyond the blue paint, and was beaten along the ice.
But like everything else in a game that must have been conducted under a full moon, this goal capped off a play that perhaps should never have happened.
A CBC replay caught it. Prior to the goal, the puck actually struck the hand of Kopecky, who was perched on the bench waiting to hop on to the ice. If a puck goes out of play, which it evidently did, then the officials are obliged to whistle the play down. They missed it -- apparently so did Laviolette, who seemed befuddled by a question on the subject in the post-match press conference -- and play carried on. Chicago defensemen Brent Seabrook made a sweet play to keep the puck in the zone, the Flyers were caught cheating, and Kopecky showed patience on the goal that was scored perhaps a full 30 seconds after he was struck by the puck.
Of course, a winning goal with an amazing backstory made as much sense as anything else on a night when a Philadelphia pitcher threw a perfect game and a Philadelphia hockey team played an imperfect one.
Among the curios in a game ripped from the days of hair bands and Gretzky's hands, consider:
• Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks captain who is the leading scorer and most complete player remaining in the 2010 playoffs, did not have any of the 16 points, ending a scoring string of 13 straight games. He, Kane and Dustin Byfuglien were a combined -9. Said Quenneville, "That's one line that really needs to be better." The Flyers' top line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagné were also held without a point and were a combined -7.
• Blair Betts, the fourth liner, scored the Flyers' fourth goal. His last goal came March 20.
• The Flyers, the second-most penalized team in the NHL during the regular season, did not put the Blackhawks on the power play. Philadelphia had four.
• For all the pre-series talk of sacrificing the body, there was precious little of it. The Blackhawks blocked only 11 shots -- Toews had a big one late in the third period -- and the Flyers just seven.
"I'm sure NBC is happy for the ratings with all the goals," the Flyers' Scott Hartnell said. "This was an emotional rollercoaster, which we didn't want. Definitely a defensive battle for Game 2. We don't want to run and gun with them. We've gotta tighten up."
"We need to be better in front of our goaltender," said Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger, who had two assists, was a +2 and played a yeoman 32:21. "Tonight we scored goals, but we didn't stop many."
Surely normalcy, if not Leighton, will return Monday when the adrenaline is tamped down and the NHL fixes the chippy ice that drew the players' attention and ire.
No, the Stanley Cup opener was just one of those things, weird and wild and occasionally wonderful. The coaches hated it, of course. This is not how they could possible have drawn it up, unless they were using a box of Crayolas.