The St. Louis Blues are off to the Stanley Cup Final after a 5-1, Game 6 win over the San Jose Sharks to win the Western Conference finals.

St. Louis will be making its first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 -- a tremendous achievement for a team that began the calendar year dead-last in the NHL in standings points.  

For the first time this postseason, the San Jose Sharks avoided a Game 7. Unfortunately for them, that's because their season is now over.

The Sharks entered Tuesday's Game 6 of the Western Conference finals in a dire situation. Not only had they lost two straight games to fall into a 3-2 series hole heading back to St. Louis, but they also suffered some key losses to their lineup with injuries to Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski

They needed a tremendously gutsy effort to defeat a red-hot Blues team in Game 6 and extend their season, but they couldn't pull it off. Instead, it was the Blues punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

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NHL Playoffs for Tuesday, May 21

  • Game 6: Blues 5, Sharks 1 (Blues win series, 4-2) [Box Score]

An early strike for momentum

Coming into Game 6 with home ice, two straight wins and a series lead over the depleted Sharks, the Blues didn't want to give San Jose any glimmer of hope in the early going -- especially considering the team that has scored first had won every game in the first five games of the series.

Well, not only did the Blues score first ... they needed only 92 seconds to do so.  

It came when Sammy Blais put a puck on net that ended up deflecting off David Perron before beating Martin Jones. It wasn't the prettiest but it counted all the same.

That goal was huge to get the crowd behind them early and take a little air out of a San Jose team that needed everything to go its way on Tuesday. The Blues seized an early lead and never gave it back.

Blues power play remains deadly

It wasn't long ago that the Blues' power play was the subject of criticism. They had an 0-for-18 slump earlier in these playoffs but that now seems like nothing but a fading memory. The Blues' man-advantage unit has been something deadly of late and they've got at least one power play goal in each of their last four games -- including a 2-for-2 effort on Tuesday.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored on the first power-play opportunity (more on that momentarily) and Brayden Schenn got the second. Schenn's goal was particularly important, as it not only broke a 13-game goalless streak for him personally, but it also helped St. Louis reclaim a two-goal lead not long after the Sharks finally got some life. 

Schenn's goal came after a pretty weak penalty call a little over halfway through the second period, but it's pretty hard for the Sharks to complain about officiating going against them in a pivotal postseason game at this point. Alex Pietrangelo fired a shot from the top of the zone and Schenn cleaned up the bouncing puck on the doorstep and put it past Jones for the 3-1 lead.

Sharks' only dent comes on Gambrell's first

The Sharks offense struggled to get much of anything going yet again in Game 6, and their lone tally came from the most unexpected of sources. 

San Jose was desperately looking for some life in the second period and they finally found it when Dylan Gambrell scored his first career NHL goal. The 22-year-old was playing in just his second game of the playoffs but he delivered in what looked to be a big spot when he scored on a breakaway 6:40 into the second period.

That goal gave the Sharks some hope as they cut the Blues' lead in half after coming out strong following first intermission, but the hope was short-lived. Still, a pretty cool moment for Gambrell to pick up his first-ever playoff goal in such a high-pressure moment. 

The Tarasenk-show continues

Remember when Vladimir Tarasenko was quiet on the scoresheet earlier in this playoffs? Welp, not anymore. 

The Blues winger scored yet again on Tuesday, giving him a point in all six games this series. Tarasenko caught Martin Jones deep in the crease during a first period power play and unleashed his excellent shot to beat the goalie for the 2-0 lead. That's Tarasenko's third goal and eighth point of the series.

Tarasenko has typically been a big-time playoff performer for the Blues in the past and he's catching fire at the right time for this team as it heads into the Stanley Cup Final.

St. Louis shows killer instinct

San Jose may have had a pulse after the Gambrell goal, but it was still on life support and the Blues swiftly pulled the plug in the third period. After Schenn reclaimed the two-goal lead in the second, the Blues showed killer instinct and added two more goals in the third period to put the Sharks away. 

Tyler Bozak made it 4-1 when he threw the puck off the stick of a San Jose defender and it managed to trickle past the goal line.

Then the Blues all but iced the game when Ivan Barbashev made it 5-1 with just over two minutes remaining. It was the kind of close-out effort that you look for in a team that can smell a Stanley Cup Final appearance just on the horizon.