The St. Louis Blues have climbed from last place in the NHL on Jan. 2 to one win from playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years.
The Blues return home for Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS) after a 5-0 victory in Game 5 gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. They made the Final in each of their first three NHL seasons (1968-70) and are looking for their first appearance since the League expanded to 14 teams in 1970-71.
No NHL team has gone from last place after their 20th regular-season game to Stanley Cup champion within a season. The Blues can become the fifth in the expansion era (since 1967-68) to reach the Final after ranking among the bottom three in the standings at any point after their 20th game (1968 Montreal Canadiens, 1968 Blues, 1991 Minnesota North Stars, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers). The Canadiens are the only team to have won the Stanley Cup, after they were 9-12 with seven ties after games played Dec. 15, 1967. They went 33-10 with three ties the rest of the regular season, and 12-1 in the playoffs, including a four-game sweep of the Blues in the Final.
The Blues set a team record for most wins in a postseason (11-7), passing the previous high of 10 in 1986 (10-9) and matched in 2016 (10-10), powered by Jaden Schwartz's second hat trick of the 2019 playoffs and sixth of his NHL career. The forward's 12 goals are second in the playoffs, behind Sharks forward Logan Couture (14), and one from tying Brett Hull's Blues record of 13 set in 1990.
Video: STL@SJS, Gm5: Schwartz records hat trick in Game 5
Tarasenko, Binnington achieve Blues playoff milestones
Vladimir Tarasenko scored a penalty-shot goal to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead at 6:53 of the second period. The forward is the first Blues player to do so in the playoffs and fourth in NHL history in the conference finals/semifinals (Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1984; Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1999; Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche, 2001).
Video: STL@SJS, Gm5: Tarasenko snipes goal on penalty shot
Jordan Binnington made 21 saves for the first shutout by a Blues rookie goalie in the playoffs. He's stopped 50 of 51 shots in 120 minutes since allowing five goals on 32 shots in Game 3. He's the first St. Louis goalie with a postseason shutout since Brian Elliott made 35 saves in a 1-0 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference First Round.
Sharks face tough odds
The Sharks will have to join the 2014 Los Angeles Kings to become the second NHL team to win three Game 7s to reach the Cup Final.
When the conference finals/semifinals are tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 is 19-8 (70.3 percent) in the series.