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Conference Final

Blues not ready to punch Stanley Cup Final ticket yet after Game 5 win

Still need one more victory against Sharks to secure first trip since 1970

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SAN JOSE -- Pat Maroon took a deep breath. The forward was born and raised in St. Louis. More than any other member of the St. Louis Blues, he knows the history, what this means.

The Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-0 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Sunday, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. Win Game 6 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS), and they'll make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970, and they'll do it in front of their home fans.

"Gloria," indeed.

"I don't want to comment on that, because … "

Maroon laughed.

"I don't know what to say, but yeah, we're close," he said, turning serious. "We're very close right now. I think the guys know that. It's in the back of their heads. But we know that that's a good hockey team over there too, and they're not going to give up."


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]


Already, arguably, this is the greatest Stanley Cup Playoff run in Blues history.

They made the Final in each of their first three seasons: 1967-68, 1968-69 and 1969-70. But that was after the NHL doubled to 12 teams and put the newcomers in their own division. There were three rounds, not four, and the playoffs were set up for one of the new teams to play one of the Original Six in the Final. The Blues were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and 1969, then by the Boston Bruins in 1970.

The only other time the Blues have come this close to the Final was 1986, when there weren't four best-of-7 rounds. They defeated the Minnesota North Stars 3-2 in a best-of-5 series, defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a best-of-7 series and lost to the Calgary Flames 4-3 in the best-of-7 Campbell Conference Final.

Video: "Second period had to be our best period of the game"

The Blues lost the conference final in five games to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and in six to the Sharks in 2016.

Now they have won a team record 11 playoff games and are one win from the Final, after they sat in last place in the NHL standings on Jan. 3.

"I've felt something special since …" Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said, his voice trailing off for a moment. "Honestly, since we turned it around middle of the season. Our group is so tight in here. We like to play for each other, stick up for each other. It's been really fun, and it's pretty special.

"But we're not getting too high. We've got one more game. Hopefully we can close it out. If not, we'll come back here and try it again."

Game 5 turned in the second period. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a shot that deflected off Sharks forward Evander Kane. Had the puck gone in, the game would have been tied 1-1. But it hit the right post, and in a blink afterward, Blues forward Jaden Schwartz made it 2-0 at 3:05.

Video: Edmundson on the Blues taking a 3-2 series lead

The Blues rolled after that, bloodless. They were outshooting the Sharks 15-1 in the second at one point and ended up outshooting them 36-10 over the final two periods. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored on a penalty shot. Schwartz scored two more goals, giving him two hat tricks and 12 goals in the playoffs. The only player in Blues history with more goals in one playoff season? Brett Hull, who had 13 in 1990. While the Sharks marched to the penalty box, the Blues kept their composure.

"I think we just stayed focused on what we want to do," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "Whether it's in game or in between games, I think we do a good job of being relentless and making sure we stick to the plan. We played well tonight, but that's in the past now. We've got to move forward and get ready for the next one."

The Sharks are in trouble. They have scored one goal in two games. Defenseman Erik Karlsson and forwards Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi left Game 5 with injuries, and San Jose will have to win three seven-game series to reach the Final. Only one team has done that: the 2014 Los Angeles Kings.

Video: Jon Morosi and Dan Rusanowsky wrap up SJS-STL Game 5

That said, the Sharks were in trouble in the Western Conference First Round, when they were down 3-1 in the series and 3-0 in the third period of Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights. They defeated the Avalanche in seven games in the second round, the first six without Pavelski. They have won four straight games when facing elimination.

"It's exciting," Edmundson said. "We're obviously excited. But we're just looking forward to Game 6. We just want to play the same game as we did tonight. You can't get too high. They're going to give us their best game. They don't want their summer to come.

"So like I said, we're obviously excited, but we're just taking it one game at a time, and we're just excited to get back and play in front of the Blues fans."

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