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The long, long journey for the Blues, both in the team's history and in this season, came to an amazing ending on Tuesday night at Enterprise Center.

For the first time in 49 years, the Blues are back in the Stanley Cup finals, amazing turnaround for a team that started the season with high hopes and which had the fewest points in the league on Jan. 3. They defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, and now they move on to the Stanley Cup finals to face the Bruins in Boston on Monday. The last time the Blues made the finals, in 1970, they faced the Bruins.

The Blues are the only remaining team from the league's first expansion in 1967-68 not to have won the Stanley Cup and they have played more games than any other NHL team without winning the Cup.

They did it with an interim coach in Craig Berube and a fourth-string goalie, Jordan Binnington, who barely figured in the team's plans at the start of the season but whose outstanding play in the second half of the season allowed the rest of the team to regain its composure and go on a club-record 11-game winning streak.

"I don't understand yet," said forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored the goal that made it 2-0 in the first period. "It's obviously a pretty big deal for us to get what we get. The feeling is we're not done yet. Really proud of the team how far we go, but there's still one more opponent to beat. It feels unbelievable. I'm not going to lie."

"This is just a special group that has a no-quit attitude to it," general manager Doug Armstrong said.

"I always thought this was possible when looking at this group but having the struggles we had early in the year and then rallying to be here now, it's amazing that we actually have a chance to win a Stanley Cup now," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's what you dream of. As a kid, this is what you see every year and you're jealous of the guys that are getting to play for it and now it's our time. I'm so excited. It's not going to be easy. There's so much work left and it's going to be extremely difficult, but I can't wait for the challenge."

As Blues fans would have expected, it didn't come easy. Protecting a two-goal lead starting the third period, the Sharks came at them in waves, and it was almost 12 minutes before the Blues had a shot on goal in the period. But the Blues and their fans unleashed a deafening roar when San Jose's Gustav Nyquist tipped in a pass from Tyler Bozak with 6:55 to go in the period. At last, the fans felt a chance to acknowledge what now seemed inevitable. With fans chanting "We want the Cup," Ivan Barbashev scored an empty-net goal to finish things off.

That was when defenseman Colton Parayko felt the game was over. "We saw them come back on Vegas in the first round," Parayko said. "Anything can happen. We just wanted to stick with it."

"We were right there," San Jose center Joe Thornton said. "They played great. Hats off to them. That’s a real good hockey team over there."

At the final horn, streamers fell from the ceiling at Enterpirse Center, David Perron picked up the puck and Gloria, the team's anthem, blared on the PA system. When the team was presented the Campbell Bowl as Western Conference champs, captain Alex Pietrangelo got nowhere near it.

For Perron, it will be his second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup finals, and it comes in his third stint with the Blues.

“It’s just nice for everyone for the city," he said. "I experienced it last year and it’s a very similar feeling. I was just glad to see Petro not touch that trophy because we touched it last year and it didn’t work.”

Binnington and the Blues allowed just two goals in the final three games of the series. In Game 6, Binnington stopped 25 of 26 shots he faced. When the season began, he was the No. 4 goalie on the organizational depth chart.

“I wouldn't have put money on it," Binnington said of his amazing rise. "It’s been a great year so far playing with these guys. I’m just trying to do my job and enjoy the moment.”

After losing Game 3 in overtime on a goal that shouldn't have counted because of a hand pass, the Blues won three straight and outscored San Jose 12-2 in the three games.

"It could've went either way," Berube said. "But I thought that our team, they didn't want to use that as an excuse. We let it go and moved on and we knew we had to play better.

"I'll go back to that Game 3. We should've closed that game out. And it should've never gotten to that point. But things happen and that's a good hockey team over there. They battled and we stayed with it. And we played some really good hockey after that."

The Blues scored twice in the first period to take a 2-0 lead and after San Jose cut the lead to 2-1 in the second, Brayden Schenn scored his first goal since Game 5 of the opening round series with Winnipeg to restore the lead to two goals.

Schenn had been snake bit throughout the playoffs since then, and had a great chance earlier in the second period when he came through the slot alone with a pass from Tarasenko but couldn't beat San Jose goalie Martin Jones.

This time, the Blues were on a power play after Justin Braun was called for hooking Robert Thomas as Thomas cut across the crease. With 10 seconds to go on a power play in which the Blues had trouble getting set up in the zone, Alex Pietrangelo took a shot from the blue line that Jones stopped. Schenn pulled the rebound away from Jones and then shot it past the diving goalie. The look of relief for Schenn was evident. He threw his stick to the ice and let out a yell as his teammates rushed to him.

The assist for Pietrangelo gave him 13 points in the postseason, a record for a Blues defenseman, and his assist was his 11th, tying him with Joe Micheletti for the team mark.

With the assist on the play, Thomas became the sixth teenager in the past 20 years with six points in a postseason, a list that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Tyler Seguin and Joe Thornton.

The goal made the Blues 2 for 2 on the power play in the game.

San Jose got its goal from Dylan Gambrell, in the game because of the injuries to Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski. He got the puck for a breakaway after the Blues had nearly scored at the other end and he beat Jordan Binnington from outside, the first goal Binnington had allowed since the third period of Game 4.

David Perron scored on a deflection to get the scoring started 1:32 in to the game and Tarasenko scored seven seconds in to a power play. Since Erik Karlsson scored on a hand pass that went uncalled to end Game 3, the Blues have outscored San Jose 9-1.

San Jose is playing without three of its top players, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson, who are all out with injuries.

The first goal came on a shot by Sammy Blais that Perron, in front of the net, tipped. It was the sixth goal of the postseason for Perron, the only member of the Blues who has played in a game in the Stanley Cup finals.

With 3:51 to go in the first, San Jose's Barclay Goodrow was sent off for tripping Robert Bortuzzo in the offensive zone as Bortuzzo played a puck in the corner. Seven seconds later, Colton Parayko passed to Tarasenko, who buried his shot high on the stick side of Martin Jones. Tarasenko has eight goals in the postseason and three in this series, with a point in every game.

Referee Wes McCauley left the game in the first period with what the league termed a lower-body injury (he was limping) and was replaced by alternate Gord Dwyer. 

Tom Timmermann is a Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.