And waited. Then Kane waited some more.
Keith skated into the Hawks' offensive zone, and Kane set up his tireless teammate with the perfect pass between two Lightning defenders. Firing a rocket that bounced off the left pad of goalie Ben Bishop, Keith followed up by knocking the rebound past Bishop's glove at the 17-minute, 13-second mark of the second period.
The horn blared, the crowd of 22,424 exhaled loudly and "Chelsea Dagger" played after Keith's goal that served as, well, the dagger. It seemed only fitting that the game-winner in a legacy-defining 2-0 victory over the Lightning came from Keith, who plays hockey the way teenagers use iPhones — without worrying about the minutes that accumulate. The best player for the Hawks this postseason should be the one remembered most for winning the biggest hockey game in the city since 1938.
"Every moment is special, and this one is special because we did it in front of our fans," Keith said. "I'm just thankful and blessed. The third time winning the Cup in six years, that's unreal."
Goalie Corey Crawford shut up his critics once and for all with a shutout in a Cup clincher. Kane, a no-show much of the series, revived "Showtime" with an insurance goal with 5:14 left that started the celebration. But Keith, the unanimous Conn Smythe Trophy winner, began a process that ended with the Hawks hoisting the silver chalice for the third time since 2010.
As Eddie Olczyk might say, threemendously threemendous.
"I think for us, we want to win almost more for those guys than for ourselves," Jonathan Toews said of the fans. "Nothing better than getting the Cup at home. It's a moment I want to ... hold on to forever."
Once the Cup made its way through Chicago traffic to get to the arena in time for the postgame ceremony, Toews lifted it above his head and exclaimed a joyful scream. Toews handed it to 40-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who will retire now after finally winning it all. Timonen came to the Hawks via trade in March after sitting out a year with a blood clot, returning to action with the hope somehow this would happen.
"I was dreaming of this moment," Timonen said.
When Coach Joel Quenneville took his turn lifting the Cup, chants of "Q! Q!" rang out from fans who never wanted to go home. Hawks President John McDonough, a lifelong Chicagoan, understood local sentiments. The occasion marked his third Cup celebration, but something about this one felt different.
"I think I'm more emotional tonight, growing up on the Northwest Side," McDonough said. "When Rocky (Wirtz) and I got together seven years ago, we just wanted to get the franchise back on the right track and create a culture and build a bridge to the past … put something together that was consistent and restore the pride in being a Blackhawks fan."
In winning, the Hawks easily laid claim to the NHL's team of the decade and compelled hockey observers to spend the summer debating what constitutes a dynasty. The Red Wings also won three in six years beginning in 1997, a period in which they were coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman, now a Hawks senior adviser. His son is Stan, the Hawks general manager whose moves at the trade deadline made this third championship possible. That father-son talk over which team enjoyed a better run would make it worth crashing a Bowman family barbecue this summer.
The Blackhawks under Wirtz have been a decidedly un-Chicago sports story; they warm your hearts more than they break them and win games they're supposed to win instead of letting you down for reasons analyzed for decades. They enjoy good luck created by great players, guys who generally stay out of trouble as they keep their team in contention year after year.
They had the Hawks in the right frame of mind from the start of Game 6.
Outshooting the Lightning 13-4 in the first 20 minutes, the Hawks opened with the pace Quenneville wanted but had nothing to show for it. They were lucky they weren't trailing given that Steven Stamkos, starving for a goal, hit the post on a breakaway after beating Crawford.
The Lightning came out in attack mode in the second. The toughest challenge came when Stamkos, with so much space it looked like a shootout attempt, failed to beat Crawford on a breakaway. Surely Stamkos' frustration peaked minutes later when Keith did what he couldn't and scored the game's first goal.
The final 20 minutes was all about surviving, sensing victory and establishing a legacy.
Whenever the Hawks reflect on what transpired, they will realize this two-month trek to a championship perhaps tested them more than the previous two. And they will be even more grateful they had Quenneville behind the glass. Unusual circumstances this postseason forced Quenneville to remind everybody what makes him a Hall of Fame coach. Remember that the playoffs began with Kane convalescing from a broken collarbone.
Then, two months ago Monday, Quenneville created a goalie controversy coaches hate by pulling Crawford in favor of rookie Scott Darling. Without Darling responding like a steady pro, the entire tenor of the offseason could have changed due to an early exit. But Quenneville guessed correctly, and his hunch was just as right when he brought Crawford back for the Wild series. Since then, Crawford resembled the player who enjoyed his finest regular season.
The Hawks swept the Wild but lost veteran Michal Rozsival to a season-ending ankle injury. That forced Quenneville and his staff to mix and match blue-line combinations. The burden fell heaviest on the top four D-men, led by Keith. Against the Lightning, Keith and Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya protected the paint as well as they had all year.
Whether due to injury or instinct, Quenneville juggled lineups more than in previous Cup runs. It went beyond changing goalies. The third line that started Game 6 — Teuvo Teravainen, Kris Versteeg and Antoine Vermette — could have been nicknamed The Healthy Scratch Line with all three finding themselves on the inactive list at different times. Yet Vermette scored three of the biggest goals of the playoffs, Teravainen emerged as a threat and the speedy Versteeg gave the Hawks a dimension against the Lightning others couldn't.
When the clock expired on another championship season at 9:51 p.m. Monday, everything seemed worth it — including the waiting for everyone.
What felt like the longest day of anticipation ever preceded a night that flew by, because time flies when you're having fun. At 5 p.m., the doors opened at the UC and fans sprinted down the hallways of the 300 level to claim their standing-room-only seats. You would run that fast too if you spent more on a ticket than you did for rent this month. Many of the people who entered the arena wore clothes soaked by the afternoon deluge that hit the area, but severe weather hardly dampened spirits. Inside, the only forecast that mattered to Hawks fans involved the Lightning leaving the area and predicting a chance for reign. It was 100 percent accurate.
More than one report pegged the cost for seats in the lower level around five figures. How do you put a price on something nobody ever will forget? While their fans paid a small fortune for the experience, the Hawks dug deep looking for their championship resolve.
Unforgettably, they found it.