For the first time in 19 years, the Stanley Cup final will be exclusively Canadian.
The Calgary Flames, down to their last chance, finally eliminated the last United States entry, the pesky St. Louis Blues, 2-1, tonight, to take the Campbell Conference title in the maximum seven games.
Calgary will be making its first appearance in the final Friday night when it entertains Montreal -- which has won the Cup 22 times.
Al MacInnis and Colin Patterson scored the Calgary goals. Eddy Beers scored for the Blues on a power play with 1:58 left in the game to make it close, but St. Louis had run out of miracles.
"When reality sets in, we got beat by a heck of a hockey team," said Blues Coach Jacques Demers. "They protected their young goalie, [Mike] Vernon, who I imagine was under some heat from the last game."
That last game was the one in which the Blues wiped out a three-goal third-period deficit and won in overtime, forcing tonight's finale.
The Blues were badly outplayed most of the game again tonight. Trailing by 2-0, they managed only 13 shots over the first 57 minutes before firing five at Vernon in a last, desperate bid to pull it out.
Overlapping hooking violations by John Tonelli and Jamie Macoun, the latter with 3:08 left in the game, gave the Blues a two-man advantage for 48 seconds. During that stretch, Vernon made three excellent saves, two against Ric Nattress and a third on a point-blank rebound by Doug Gilmour.
Macoun was still in the box when Beers made a quick move from behind the net, stepping beyond the post at Vernon's left and hitting the far corner for a goal.
With almost two minutes remaining, the Blues had a chance to tie it and they tried to capitalize, twice lifting goalie Rick Wamsley for a sixth skater. But Nattress missed the net on the best chance and it was over.
"St. Louis is a sleeper hockey club," Vernon said. "When they get an opportunity, they capitalize on it. But our guys checked the slot very well and didn't give them any room.
"It was kind of frustrating for me, not facing many shots. You have to work extra hard to concentrate. But it sure beats facing 50."
The Flames came out flying and it was on their sixth shot at 5:42 of the first period that MacInnis put them ahead to stay.
St. Louis defender Lee Norwood blocked a shot by Tim Hunter and the puck caromed out to MacInnis at the right point. Hunter broke for the net, distracting Wamsley, and MacInnis was able to line a shot off the goalie's pad.
The second period was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Calgary dominating play -- the shots were 6-0 after eight minutes -- and scoring early.
Paul Reinhart passed the puck out of the left-wing corner to Patterson in the near faceoff circle. Patterson's drive was deflected off the stick of the Blues' Bruce Bell and changed direction past Wamsley.
It was the fifth goal of the series for Patterson, who also did an outstanding job forechecking and penalty-killing.
"We deserved to win the series," Patterson said. "For the full 60 minutes, we just stayed right on them."
Before the Flames went out for the third period, Coach Bob Johnson reminded them of Monday's collapse.
"I told them one thing: to keep it simple," Johnson said. "I emphasized puck control, because if we've got the puck, they can't do anything with it."
The Flames followed orders perfectly, until the penalties piled up. The Blues' only two shots of the period, until the final flurry, came with Calgary's Robin Bartel off for holding.
"I was glad to see the buzzer sound," Johnson said. "It was tough losing Monday night, but at least we won one for the home fans. We beat Winnipeg on the road and Edmonton on the road, so this one gave the home fans a chance to celebrate a little.
"I won't have time to enjoy it, though. That's the tragedy of something like this. We beat Edmonton and 25,000 people met us at the airport, but I couldn't enjoy it, because I was already thinking St. Louis. Now I'm already thinking Montreal."
The Canadiens have been resting since they eliminated the New York Rangers on Friday, but they had to sit at home to see how this series turned out, and they may have some difficulty reaching Calgary.
A surprise snowstorm that began Tuesday night and was still continuing when tonight's game ended was affecting travel in the area, closing the airport and highways with more than 12 inches of drifting snow.
Arriving planes were diverted to Edmonton and even Royal Canadian Air Force bases. Emergency generators were working overtime, with power lines down throughout the area.
Linesman John D'Amico was stranded in nearby Olds, Alberta, and his attempt to form a snowmobile group was thwarted because all the snowmobiles had been immobilized for the summer.
The Flames received the Clarence Campbell Bowl after the game from Scotty Morrison, the NHL's vice president for officiating. Brian O'Neill, the league's executive vice president who had been scheduled for the presentation, was stuck in Edmonton with other NHL officials.
"The only other time I can remember being cheered like that was when they told the crowd I was calling my last game as a referee," Morrison said.