CHICAGO - It was an absolute missile fired from beyond the circle that found its way past Michael Leighton and under the crossbar. It was something you might expect to see from Chicago's Marian Hossa or Patrick Sharp.
But Ben Eager?
With the United Center crowd of 22,275 still on its feet celebrating Hossa's goal 28 seconds earlier, Eager, standing wide open, took a pass from Dustin Byfuglien. From beyond the right circle, he blasted his shot by Leighton.
It gave Chicago two goals in less than 30 seconds, and the Blackhawks were on their way to a 2-1 victory over the Flyers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
"He has a great shot," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Ben has a shot that is deceiving and has more on it than you might think or know. It was a huge goal."
Eager, whom the Flyers traded to Chicago in 2007, is mainly known for his physical play, as his seven goals and team-leading 120 penalty minutes in the regular season indicate. That he was even playing was tied to the fact that Chicago forward Andrew Ladd has been unable to play because of an upper-body injury.
So, on Monday night, it was Eager's laser beam that provided the winning margin against his former teammates.
"That was very exciting," Eager said. "It was definitely a nice feeling to see that one go in."
While entering the score sheet was unexpected for Eager, Hossa's goal was another step toward what has been an elusive Stanley Cup championship.
Hossa, who is playing in his third consecutive Finals for his third franchise, has been playing well, as noted by his plus-11 rating in the playoffs and two assists in Chicago's 6-5 victory in Game 1. But he had not been able to find the net since Game 3 of Chicago's Western Conference semifinal series against Vancouver.
That changed Monday late in the second period. With the game scoreless, Hossa banged home a rebound past Leighton off a shot from Troy Brouwer.
"I was looking for some ugly goals like that to get it out of the way," Hossa said of the goal drought.
Chicago goalie Antti Niemi also returned to the form that had given him a 2.33 goals-against average before the start of the series. He made a series of dazzling stops on 33 saves, including a nice glove stop against Arron Asham late in the second period and Simon Gagne on a rebound in the third period.
It was quite a turnaround from Saturday's effort, when he allowed five goals in the first two periods. But Quenneville was not surprised by Niemi's improved play.
"He is very laid-back," Quenneville said. "He looks forward and trying to stop the next shot. That is just the way he is."
Other Blackhawks said the defensive miscues on the part of both teams in Game 1 could be chalked up to jitters, given the stage.
"You see guys bobbling pucks they normally wouldn't," Brouwer said before the game. "Now that everyone has a game under their belt, they can relax and play hockey again."