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Blues win Best Comeback at ESPY Awards; Ovechkin named Best NHL Player

Laila Anderson mentioned in acceptance speech; Blue Jackets lose in Best Upset category @NHLdotcom

The St. Louis Blues won Best Comeback at the 2019 ESPY Awards on Wednesday.

The Blues were recognized with a special award for winning the Stanley Cup after being last in the NHL standings during the season.

"Big thanks to the fans of St. Louis," Blues forward Ryan O'Reilly said. "There were some dark times this year and they stuck with us, they kept buying tickets and supporting us and eventually we got things going and turned it around."

Tweet from @StLouisBlues: Champs are here. #ESPYS #stlblues

St. Louis was in last place Jan. 3 but finished third in the Central Division to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks to win the Western Conference before defeating the Boston Bruins in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final. It was the first NHL championship in the Blues' 51 seasons.

Accompanied by their victory song "Gloria," O'Reilly was joined on stage at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles by teammates Jordan Binnington, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Pat Maroon, Colton Parayko, Zach Sanford and Robert Thomas.

"Thank you all, it's been a heck of a ride," O'Reilly said. "On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, thanks everyone. Thank you."

Tweet from @ESPYS: 2019 Stanley Cup Champions coming through 🏆 #ESPYS(📍 @CapitalOne)

O'Reilly specifically mentioned 11-year-old fan Laila Anderson, who has hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a severe systemic inflammatory syndrome that can be fatal. Anderson was on the ice after Game 7 of the Cup Final and took part in the Blues' victory parade and celebration in St. Louis.

"Someone I really want to mention here, which is kind of our story, and I think I can speak for all of us, she was a true inspiration, and that's Laila Anderson," O'Reilly said. "She's been through so much these last few years, and her spirit ... and [the way she] just keeps fighting, she's an example for us, and she taught us so much.

"She was around, and we got a chance to share the Stanley Cup with her, but we just want to say this is another thing we get to add to it and share with her."

Tweet from @espnW: The St. Louis Blues gave their superfan Laila Anderson, who is battling a life-threatening autoimmune disease, a shoutout at the #ESPYS ������

O'Reilly drew laughs from the crowd with his opening remark.

"Before I speak I'm going to take my tooth out so I don't spit on any of the celebs in the front row," he said before removing it. "OK, I think we're good now."

Tweet from @StLouisBlues: Red carpet 📸📸📸 #stlblues

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was a repeat winner as Best NHL Player, defeating Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. 

Ovechkin last year became the first NHL player to win Best Male Athlete after helping the Capitals win the Stanley Cup for the first time.

The Columbus Blue Jackets' sweep of the Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round lost Best Upset to boxer Andy Ruiz, who defeated Anthony Joshua for the heavyweight championship. The Old Dominion football team defeating Virginia Tech, and tennis player Naomi Osaka defeating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open were the other nominees.

The ESPYs have been held annually to recognize achievements of the past calendar year. Winners have been determined by online voting since 2005.

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