The St Louis Blues completed a remarkable turnaround as they beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in game seven to lift their first Stanley Cup.
The Blues replaced their head coach in November and were bottom of the NHL standings in early January, with some reports claiming management were contemplating trading away some of their star players.
But after surging into the play-offs under interim coach Craig Berube, St Louis reached their first Stanley Cup final since 1970 and beat six-time winners Boston 4-3 as the series went the distance for the first time since 2011.
The Blues’ fortunes started turning after they brought in rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington in January and the 25-year-old topped off a superb campaign with a brilliant display in the winner-takes-all clash, saving 32 of the 33 shots he faced.
He was denied a shutout by Matt Grzelcyk’s goal with two minutes and 10 seconds of the game left, but by then it was too little too late for the Bruins.
Ryan O’Reilly – who earned the Conn Smythe trophy for the play-off’s most valuable player – made it 1-0 at 16.47 in the opening period and became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to score in four straight Stanley Cup final games.
Alex Pietrangelo added another with eight seconds left in the period as the Blues took a 2-0 lead despite being out-shot 12-4.
St Louis held on throughout the second period and into the third – with Binnington making a number of impressive saves.
Brayden Schenn was then set up by Vladimir Tarasenko to make it 3-0, 11.25 into the final period before Zach Sanford added a fourth four minutes later.
Binnington told the NHL’s website: “It was an incredible year and I can’t believe where we’re at. It’s awesome.”
Blues head coach Berube said of Binnington: “He was outstanding tonight. I thought it was his best game of the series.”