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(Reuters) – The St. Louis Blues won the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup for the first time with a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins in the decisive seventh game of the championship series on Wednesday.
With the victory, the visiting Blues not only completed a remarkable turnaround considering they were dead last in the NHL in early January but also ended the longest wait in NHL history – 51 seasons – for a team to win their first championship.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. “But I am so proud of this group. It’s unbelievable.”
The Blues got all the scoring they would need in a late three-minute span of the first period and then put on a defensive masterclass while Jordan Binnington made 32 stops, including the save of the game when he got a leg out to stop Joakim Nordstrom from in close midway through the third.
Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly, set a franchise record with the most points in one playoff year with 23, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.
“I stopped trying to worry about the outcome and just give it everything I had,” said O’Reilly, who scored his team’s opening goal in each of the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final.
“I was getting bounces. It was amazing, my linemates played great, I thought we created every night. It was just amazing.”
The Bruins, who had never before hosted a Game Seven of a Stanley Cup Final, made a solid start and created all sorts of pressure but it was the Blues who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead despite being outshot 12-4 in the opening frame.
Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring with about three minutes left in the period when he cleverly re-directed a shot from the point by Jay Bouwmeester that went right through Boston goalie Tuukka Rask’s legs.
Blues defenseman Pietrangelo added another with eight seconds left in the period when he skated in and used a nifty backhand deke to beat Rask and silence the stunned home crowd.
St. Louis nearly added a third midway through the second period but Zdeno Chara managed to swat the puck away from the goal line after a shot from Brayden Schenn went off the crossbar and Rask’s shoulder before dropping in the crease.
Schenn did make it 3-0 when he took a centering pass from Vladimir Tarasenko and fired it off the post and past Rask with under nine minutes to play before Zach Sanford put the game out of reach with his first of the playoffs with under five minutes to play.
Boston broke Binnington’s shutout bid when Matt Grzelcyk found the net with just over two minutes to play.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Sudipto Ganguly)