SAN JOSE -– The quarter-century wait is officially over.
For the first time in the 25-year history of the franchise, the Sharks have moved on to the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Blues on Wednesday night at SAP Center, 5-2.
Joel Ward scored twice while Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Logan Couture also added goals as San Jose won the Western Conference Final series, four-games-to-two.
The Sharks will face the winner of the Penguins-Lightning series in the Stanley Cup Final, beginning on Monday. Should the Lightning win Game 7 on Thursday, the series would start in San Jose. It would begin in Pittsburgh if the Penguins, who won Game 6, prevail.
The Sharks scored one goal in each of the first two periods before putting it away in the third.
A crazy sequence was capped off with Pavelski opening the scoring. It started with Martin Jones, who got just enough of an Alex Steen shot with his glove before the Sharks transitioned the other way. Joe Thornton lifted the puck high on a breakaway, but stayed with it behind the net and tapped it to Pavelski, who tucked it through Brian Elliott at 3:57.
San Jose kept its foot on the gas for the rest of the period and into the second in eventually increasing its lead. Brent Burns harmless looking floater from along the wall and just inside the blue line was redirected by Ward, stationed in front of the net at 5:02.
Three straight penalties later in the middle frame presented the Sharks with a chance to increase their advantage, but it didn’t happen. They couldn’t get anything going after Troy Brouwer’s undisciplined elbow to Donskoi’s head in the neutral zone, and then failed to score on a four-minute double minor to Scottie Upshall for high-sticking Tommy Wingels.
St. Louis seized the momentum at that point, but Jones helped preserve the 2-0 cushion until the intermission. His best stop came on a Jori Lehtera one-timer with 9:10 to go, getting his left pad on the hard blast by the Blues’ center.
The Sharks tacked on two more in the third. Ward got behind St. Louis’ Dmitrij Jaskin and poked a Couture pass into a wide open net at 3:01 for his fourth goal in the last two games.
About five minutes later, Donskoi finished off a nice passing sequence from Patrick Marleau and Couture, whipping it through at 8:11 to effectively put the game away.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored a pair late. His first point of the series came with 8:21 to go in the third, and he brought the Blues back to within 4-2 when he jammed it through Jones at 16:25 with the goalie off for an extra attacker.
The Sharks survived a few nervous moments after that as the Blues continued to pressure with the goalie pulled, but Couture put it away with an empty net goal with 19.7 seconds left.
The Sharks improved to 8-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods. They have outscored the opposition 29-14 in the third period overall.
The Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play, with three shots on goal in six minutes even. They finished the series 4-for-19.
The Blues did not have a power play in the game, and were 4-for-16 in the series.
Jones had struggled in games four and five, allowing seven goals on 40 shots, but recorded his second straight home win in a closeout game with 23 saves. He is 12-6 in the playoffs.
Elliott, who was pulled late in Game 3, returned to the net after it was Jake Allen in who started the last two. He allowed four goals on 26 shots, and finished the postseason with a 9-9 record.
Pavelski recorded at least one point in every game in the series. He has a seven-game point streak overall (5g, 5a).
The Blues made one change to their fourth line, inserting Upshall back in for Magnus Paajarvi after Upshall had missed the last three games with an upper body injury.
The Sharks split the season series with both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, going 1-1 against each.