By the end of Sunday’s game, which felt a lot like the end of their season, the San Jose Sharks’ bench was depleted. So were their spirits.
The St. Louis Blues, who joined the National Hockey League in 1967 but have never won a championship, clubbed the Sharks 5-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Final. The best road team of the playoffs is one win away from extending their extraordinary journey all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s a trophy the Sharks have never won, either, despite San Jose compiling over the last 15 seasons far more wins than any other NHL team.
But with a chance to play for a Cup this spring, the Sharks were dominated on home ice by the Blues, who are 7-2 on the road in the playoffs and can make the franchise’s first final since 1970 by winning Game 6 Tuesday in St. Louis.
Fifty years of frustration may be coming to an end for the Blues, as the Sharks’ disappointment over the last two decades seems about to deepen.
“It’s probably tough for me to put into words,” forward Jaden Schwartz, a career Blue, said after his second hat trick of the playoffs helped his team inch within a game of the Stanley Cup Final. “Obviously, it’s something that everyone has worked for and dreamed about. We all know how important and how hard that last win is going to be (against San Jose) but it would be a dream come true.”
St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko said: “I think every player dreams to play in the Stanley Cup Final, but we’re not there yet.”
They look far closer to getting there than the score in this series indicates.