BOSTON — From worst to first.
St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington was waiting patiently, as NHL rookies learn to do, while the Stanley Cup was passed from teammate to teammate across the recently conquered ice of the new Boston Garden.
Thirteen Blues took their turn with the iconic trophy, raising it above their heads, lowering it for a kiss, posing for a picture.
Finally, understudy Jake Allen gave the starter a little shove, and the game’s star timidly skated forward to receive the Cup and cap off one of the great rookie runs in NHL history.
Binnington stopped 32 shots and Ryan O’Reilly scored for the fourth straight game Wednesday night to lead the Blues to a 4-1 victory over Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and their first NHL championship.
Alex Pietrangelo had a goal and an assist and Brayden Schenn and Zach Sanford also scored for St. Louis, which had the worst record in the league in early January but won 30 of its final 49 regular-season games, then soared through the playoffs to reach the final for the first time since 1970.
Binnington, who was pulled from a 7-2 loss in Game 3, took a shutout into the final minutes, and the Blues were never really in danger after scoring twice in the final few minutes of the first period.
“He bounced back. We knew he would,” Pietrangelo said. “Unbelievable first period. His confidence, his swagger, his belief in himself — unbelievable.”
Coach Craig Berube, who took over when Mike Yeo was fired in November, is the fourth coach in the past 11 years hired in midseason to lead his team to the NHL title.
“Once we pulled it together, we were tough to beat,” Berube said.
Matt Grzelcyk scored the Bruins’ only goal, and Tuukka Rask stopped 16 shots for Boston.
Boston outshot St. Louis 33-20, but the Blues went ahead at the end of the first period on goals from O’Reilly and Pietrangelo about three minutes apart. The second period was scoreless, then Schenn put it out of reach with 8:35 to play and Sanford made it 4-0 before the Bruins spoiled Binnington’s bid for a shutout.
St. Louis can stop singing the blues.
It’s time to play Gloria.
Returning to the site of their last appearance in the final, which ended when Bobby Orr sailed through the air after scoring the Cup winner, the Blues won for the third time in Boston this series and an NHL record-tying 10th time in the postseason.
O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the postseason. He is the first player since Wayne Gretzky to score in four consecutive Stanley Cup Final games.
Not so surprising with Gretzky, who is the NHL’s leading regular-season and playoff scorer, but O’Reilly had just three goals in his first 22 postseason games.
“You dream of this for so long,” he said. “As a kid, that feeling comes back to you of just what it means to win this thing. I still can’t believe this. I can’t believe I’m here right now and a Stanley Cup champion with this group of guys.”
Boston will have to console itself with the two major sports championships it has already won in the past year, or the dozen trophies that have been chauffeured through Boston in a parade of the city’s iconic, amphibious Duck Boats. Three of them have come at St. Louis’ expense.
“We were the underdogs the whole series. We knew that,” Pietrangelo said. “We knew people didn’t think we would have a chance but we believed in each other and that’s all that matters.”
The Bruins dominated for long stretches of time except in the way that mattered most.
The Blues had just one shot on goal heading into the final minutes of the first period, but they scored first when O’Reilly deflected a shot from Jay Bouwmeester into the net. Then with just 7.9 seconds left in the period and Bruins forward Brad Marchand tentative on a line change, Pietrangelo beat Rask to make it 2-0.
“It’s hard to find words,” Boston’s 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara said, fighting back tears and still healing from a badly injured jaw. “It’s not easy. I’m sure everyone pictured it differently and we believed that it was there for us. That’s sports. You’ve got to kind of take those and move on.”
St. Louis 2 0 2 — 4
Boston 0 0 1 —1
First period: STL — O’Reilly 8 (Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo) 16:47; Pietrangelo 3 (Schwartz), 19:52.
Third period: STL — Schenn 5 (Tarasenko, Schwartz), 11:25; Sanford 1 (Perron, O’Reilly), 15:22; B — Grzelcyk 4 (Krejci), 17:50.
Shots on goal: STL (4-6-10) 20; B (12-11-10) 33.
Power plays: STL (0 of 0); B (0 of 1).
Goalies: STL (Binnington) 32; B (Rask) 16.