"A remarkable comeback," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of Kopecky, a healthy scratch in Chicago's last five postseason games. "Nice return to the lineup."
Quenneville and the Blackhawks could not have asked for anything more of Kopecky, playing only because of an undisclosed injury to wing Andrew Ladd. While the Blackhawks' 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday was not an artistic masterpiece -- especially in the defensive end -- Kopecky replaced Ladd on a line with center Dave Bolland and right wing Kris Versteeg and did not show any loss of timing.
These are the kind of performances Stanley Cup-winning teams get this time of year. This was the kind of performance Kopecky was brought to Chicago for. The 6-foot-3 wing from Slovakia played for Detroit the last two season when the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, winning in 2008 and losing a year ago to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although he hasn't had to meet the press much this year, Kopecky was in all-NHL form after the game. He looked bashful when asked about his heroics, saying, "One win does not win the series," and "This was a team effort." (C'mon Tommy, take a bow!)
Kopecky scored the game-winner with less than 12 minutes remaining in the game. After defenseman Brent Seabrook kept the puck in the Flyers' zone, Bolland sent a cross-ice pass to Kopecky. Displaying the hands that tantalize scouts (34 goals in the Western Hockey League with Lethbridge, 32 goals in one AHL season with Cincinnati, Kopecky held on to the puck and waited for Flyers goalie Brian Boucher to make the first move. When Boucher did, Kopecky slid the puck behind him to make it 6-5.
Versteeg claimed before the game his team would not miss a beat with Kopecky in for Ladd, and smiled when asked after the game about his prediction.
"Kopey has world-class skill," said Versteeg. "He was on a great team in Detroit. Having a guy like him, who was a healthy scratch because we're a deep team -- not because of his play -- that's a luxury. To reach our goal, we're going to need efforts like Kopey gave us tonight."