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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — This was one hat trick Marian Hossa wanted no part of turning.
The Stanley Cup finals had become Hossa's personal playground each of the last three years with different clubs. Although the star forward had gotten as far as the championship round several times, he was never able to seal the deal and raise the coveted silver chalice over his head.
Hossa can finally call himself a Stanley Cup champion, finishing on the right side when the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime of Game 6 on Wednesday night.
"It's a huge relief," the 31-year-old forward said. "It feels much better not to have to answer these questions anymore."
Those probing questions followed him from Pittsburgh to Detroit and then to Chicago.
The first person to carry the Cup after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed it to 22-year-old Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was Hossa, whose 12th season in the league became his most rewarding.
"We talked about it very, very briefly this morning," Toews said of the handoff. "We didn't want to get overexcited or think too much of the end result, but I mentioned it to him this morning to be ready, that if we did happen to hoist it tonight, that (Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp) both agreed that he should be the first guy after myself to grab it.
"It's special for him. I can't imagine being a part of three long seasons like that and to win one finally."
As prepared as Hossa might have been in his mind, some things you just can't know about until you do them. Hockey superstition says you don't touch the Stanley Cup until you have won it.
"It feels pretty heavy, actually," Hossa said of the 35-pound Cup. "I put it on my shoulder. What a relief. I'm so happy to finally do this."
So were the rest of the Blackhawks. They all agreed that Hossa should be the first to grab it after Toews.
"I don't know if it was planned or not. Very apropos," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The right guy got it first after being so close two years in a row. He was a huge factor in tonight's game. He was a monster out there."
Hossa became a villain in Pittsburgh during the summer of 2008 when he bolted the Eastern Conference champion Penguins to sign a one-year deal with Detroit — the team that had just beaten them in the Cup finals.
He helped the Red Wings make a second straight trip to the finals, but it was there that the Penguins got their revenge. Detroit held a 3-2 series edge before dropping the last two games — including Game 7 on home ice — to wreck Hossa's hopes again.
Another crack at free agency in 2009 earned Hossa a massive 12-year, $62.8 million contract from the Blackhawks, who were looking to add a proven veteran goal scorer to their young stable of up-and-coming stars. As good as Chicago's future looked, it was hard to figure they would be ready to put it all together and win the Cup so quickly, even though the Blackhawks had reached the Western Conference finals last year.
But they were.
Hossa did his part. The right winger put up 24 goals and 27 assists in 57 games during a season in which he missed the Blackhawks' first 22 games following offseason shoulder surgery. He added three goals and 12 assists in 22 playoff games.
"He showed that he wanted to make sure he was winning the Cup here," Quenneville said. "He finally achieved that goal of being a champion, even though not too many guys are going to go to the finals three years in a row. He played 12 rounds and knowing that, his approach in the last couple of days was just excellent. I think the guys fed off that preparation that he had."