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‘Perfect timing’ — Tatar’s first career hat trick leads Red Wings over Ducks

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DETROIT (AP) Tomas Tatar broke out of a scoring slump.

The Detroit Red Wings did, too.

Tatar got his first career hat trick, helping Detroit beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-4 on Saturday night to get a desperately needed win with a breakout offensive performance.

“It’s perfect timing,” he said.

Tatar got his third goal early in the third period, putting the puck on both sides of his stick before flipping it over John Gibson.

Detroit scored more goals (four) in the first two periods than it totaled over its previous four games – all home losses – and finished with a season scoring high.

“We knew we weren’t good enough the last four games,” Tatar said.

Detroit has needed Tatar to play better, too.

The Czech winger almost matched the number of goals (four) he scored in his first 31 games of the season. Tatar, who made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season, scored a career-high 29 goals two years ago and had 21 goals last season.

Xavier Ouellet scored his first of the season and third of his career with 2:08 left in the second period to put the Red Wings ahead 4-3, their first lead in five games.

Petr Mrazek helped Detroit keep the lead, finishing with 21 saves.

Anaheim’s Jonathan Bernier stopped 17 shots through two periods before being pulled by Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.

“He wanted to turn things around and spark the team,” Bernier said.

Rakell and Shea Theodore scored in the first period, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead that seemed safe against a team that has been struggling to score. Cam Fowler gave them another two-goal lead early in the second.

Tatar, though, pulled Detroit within a goal for the second time, and quickly the Red Wings figured out a way to score.

A little luck helped.

Tatar shot the puck and it went off the left skate of Fowler, caromed off the end boards and went off the back of Bernier’s left leg and into the net.

“It’s a tough building when you’re not used to those bounces,” Bernier said.

Detroit’s Dylan Larkin went to the front of the net and into the crease and was rewarded with a tying goal midway through the second period that stood after a video review and challenge by Carlyle.

“I thought I was in good position and had it,” Bernier said. “It trickled in.”

Rickard Rakell scored his second goal of the game less than two minutes later, pulling Anaheim within a goal.

The Red Wings restored their two-goal lead midway through the third when Frans Nielsen scored off a rebound in front of the net.

“It’s a game of confidence,” Nielsen said.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

Report: Dwight King could be KHL-bound

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Dwight King, the burly forward that won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles, may be on his way to Russia.

Per News 1130 in Vancouver, King is set to sign in the KHL after failing to land a contract this summer. The 28-year-old finished last season in Montreal after spending the first seven years of his NHL career in Los Angeles.

For a time, King was an effective skater for L.A. He posted a career-high 15 goals and 30 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and followed that up with a 13-goal, 26-point effort the year following. He also had a nice showing during the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, finishing with 11 points in 26 games.

King’s biggest issue is his skating ability. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he was never the fleetest of foot, but had been working on his speed this offseason.

More, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

King is still looking for work after finishing the season in Montreal. There are a few Western Conference teams poking around.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity at this point. I’m going to be on the ice more this year, doing a little more skills and skating. Any bit of improvement I can find.”

King is going to try a couple new teachers, then decide which route to take. One also works with former teammate (and new Golden Knight) Brayden McNabb. King is quite the physical specimen, but will take a new approach. He regularly played at 230–231 pounds, but is going to go to 225–226. And he believes the Western Conference is better for him.

News 1130 reported that Vancouver had shown “mild interest” in King, who just wrapped a three-year $5.85 million deal with a $1.95M cap hit.

King appeared in 17 games for the Habs after being picked up at the deadline last season, scoring once. He went pointless in six playoff games.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

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To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.