Blues’ Russian Two, Tarasenko and Barbashev, on verge of Cup

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Slava Fetisov called Vladimir Tarasenko midway through the second round of the playoffs to deliver an important message.

”I said, ‘Listen, you’ve got a good chance to win this year, so you’re gonna play 100 percent, maybe a little more,”’ Fetisov recalled Friday. ”’You get all your talents and your skill and you can win the Cup. And sometimes you think it’s gonna be tomorrow in that opportunity but it’s not.”’

Fetisov would know. He didn’t defect from the Soviet Union until midway through his career, and it took until age 39 for him to lift the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997.

More than two decades since Fetisov and the ”Russian Five” shattered the myth that NHL teams couldn’t win with players from a nation unpopular in North America, the St. Louis Blues’ Russian Two of Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev is one victory away from lifting the same Cup after being inspired by the generation of countrymen who endured so much to get there.

”They give us reasons to dream about it and maybe one day we can do the same thing,” Tarasenko said.

How Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov reached hockey’s mountaintop is documented in the award-winning film “Russian Five” released Friday. It’s co-produced by player agent Dan Milstein, who represents Barbashev, and tells the story of the first time in NHL history five Russian teammates took the ice at the same time.

Barbashev hasn’t seen the film, but those in hockey know the tale well: Detroit seeing the Soviet Union as a source of untapped talent, putting defensemen Fetisov and Konstantinov and forwards Fedorov, Kozlov and Larionov together as one unit like the old Red Army teams and winning the Cup in 1997 by sweeping the big, tough Philadelphia Flyers that featured the ”Legion of Doom” line.

Red Wings teammate and now Vegas coach Gerard Gallant says in the film that observers figured the Russian Five is ”gonna have to play the Canadian way. They’re gonna have to toughen up.” They heard plenty of criticism from the old guard, led by Canadian commentator Don Cherry who wondered, ”What is this, ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ or ‘Hockey Night in Russia?”’

The Russian Five adapted to different rules in North America, and Tarasenko and Barbashev are perfect examples of the effects of that hybrid of skill and toughness. Barbashev is a hard-hitting forward – and his check to the head of Boston’s Marcus Johansson actually led to him being suspended for Game 6 against the Boston Bruins on Sunday night – while Tarasenko has rounded out his 200-foot game to become even more difficult to stop.

”You learn you can’t only stand waiting for the puck to come to you and score goals,” Tarasenko said. ”You need to do more to help your team win the Cup.”

The Russian Five exemplified that. A car accident ended Konstantinov’s career, leaving four to win the second of back-to-back titles in 1998 and an emotional scene of him getting the Cup on the ice in a wheelchair.

Since then, 15 of the 19 champions have had at least one Russian player, and last year Washington’s Alex Ovechkin became the first Russian captain to win the Cup. Tarasenko is in the final for the first time and said he’s never touched or even looked intentionally at the Stanley Cup, but he knows what winning it means.

”We don’t really have a lot of NHL when we was growing up back home,” Tarsenko said. ”But Washington guys won the Cup, too. So any Russian guy win the Cup, they bring it to Russia and see how excited their families or friends and people in their hometowns (are).”

Tarasenko and the Blues might not be here had Fetisov not given him a pep talk with them trailing the Dallas Stars 3-2 during the second round. Fetisov was paying attention to the NHL playoffs for the first time in a while and took it upon himself to reach out to Tarasenko to offer some advice.

”They was down in the series and I call him and we have good conversation: You talk about the game and what the Stanley Cup mean to the players,” Fetisov said. ”Since this, he become a different player and I hope that’s gonna help him to win the Cup.”

Tarasenko, 27, doesn’t talk much on the phone this time of year aside from family, but it’s a good thing he made an exception for the Hall of Fame defenseman. After recording no assists in his first 11 playoff games, Tarasenko has six goals and five assists for 11 points in his past 13 since talking to Fetisov.

Coach Craig Berube has noticed and been impressed by Tarasenko’s hard work and competitiveness that often gets overlooked because of his sublime skill.

”He’s a very good skater and he’s using his speed and he’s playing a physical game,” Berube said. ”I know he’s scoring goals, but watching him and how he’s developed in the playoffs, in my opinion, throughout this year’s playoffs, his physicality, skating and compete level, all the things, especially without the puck, too. He’s doing a real good job of working extremely hard without the puck.”

The Russian Five together was able to play keep away with the puck. Tarasenko and Barbashev don’t play that style with the Blues, but they fit well into the straightforward, north-south game that has made St. Louis so successful since being last in the NHL in early January.

Yet their success has made countless Russian players aim to win the Stanley Cup.

”I hope they come to the United States and Canada for the biggest prize in professional hockey, for the Stanley Cup,” Fetisov said. ”And you see more and more guys fight and try to win the Cup. I’m very happy for them. The teams get more and more reliable on Russian players.”

Barbashev doesn’t want to talk yet about he and Tarasenko joining the list of Russian players with their names on the Cup, though he does draw inspiration from what the Russian Five accomplished 22 years ago.

”Every time you look at those names who played in the NHL, the guys that won the Stanley Cup all together, it’s just amazing,” Barbashev said.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Golden Knights salvage OT win after stunning Ducks comeback

Golden Knights hold off Ducks to win in OT
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The Ducks saved a wild comeback worthy of William Karlsson (aka “Wild Bill”), but the Golden Knights ultimately salvaged a 6-5 OT win.

Golden Knights stay hot by squeaking by in OT

Karlsson admitted it as much: Vegas started to run out of gas. After all, the Golden Knights completed a stretch of three games in four nights.

After going 20 games without a goal, Karlsson exploded for his third career hat trick. Shea Theodore‘s overtime-winner pushed the Golden Knights’ winning streak to an impressive six games.

Vegas: 76 points in 64 games played (34-22-8)
Edmonton: 73 in 62 (33-22-7)
Vancouver: 72 in 61 (33-22-6)

As you can see, the Oilers and Canucks rank as big threats to that Pacific crown with games in hand. That only cements the thought that this would have hurt very, very badly if the Ducks rampaged back for a win.

Adam Henrique nearly rallied that victory. He scored the Ducks’ two last goals to send the contest to OT, and also generated two assists for a four-point night. Nick Ritchie also factored heavily into the proceedings with two goals and two assists of his own.

Anaheim is in sell mode, and at a crossroads. But could this once-proud franchise serve as a pesky upset threat down the stretch?

Also, one wonders if Peter DeBoer felt a sense of deja vu. The Golden Knights were collapsing late against a California team, only this time he was behind Vegas’ bench, and his team was facing the Ducks. Oh yeah, and the Golden Knights were the overtime winners this time around.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Oilers trade for Mike Green Red Wings
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Nostalgia seems to be in the air during NHL trade deadline eve. After Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to Washington, the Detroit Red Wings sent defenseman Mike Green to the Edmonton Oilers in a trade on Sunday.

To the Oilers: Mike Green

To the Red Wings: “A conditional pick in 2020 or 2021” plus Kyle Brodziak. Red Wings retain 50 percent of Green’s $5.375M salary.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports the salary retention, and also the conditions of that pick:

Assessing the Mike Green trade for both teams

Overall, this seems like a no-brainer for the Red Wings. They need to stockpile picks, so getting a fourth that could become a third — especially in 2020 — is pretty nifty. That’s especially true because, frankly, Green’s perceived value has never been lower.

So far in 2019-20, the 34-year-old only has three goals and 11 points in 48 games.

That’s a far cry from his days as a near-Norris-winning high-scorer. If the knocks on Green’s game were unfair back then, they feel more accurate now. Consider, for instance, his poor showings by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM Charts:

Mike Green RAPM chart trade to EDM

He’s very limited overall, but as a specialist who can potentially boost the Oilers’ offense? That makes him more interesting. There’s no denying that Ken Holland approves of Green’s game, being that he was his GM in Detroit and now Edmonton.

What do you make of the Oilers’ decision to trade for Mike Green? Was the price right or a little too rich? Again, I think Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman did very nicely with this one.

The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis is very much plugged into what the Oilers need, and he provided pretty effusive praise. At worst, it’s not much of an investment for Edmonton, although I’d still argue it’s solid work by Detroit.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues keep heating up, cruise against Wild

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After a troubling lull early in 2020, the Blues are heating up again. St. Louis soundly defeated the Wild 4-1 on Sunday, pushing the Blues’ winning streak to four games.

Top Central Division teams pushing Blues

Again, the Blues have been heating up — and they haven’t been given much of a choice. At least, if they want to win the Central. The idle Avs are on a nice roll, while the Stars won their Sunday game.

Blues: 82 points in 63 games played (36-17-10)
Avalanche: 79 points in 61 GP (36-18-7)
Stars: 78 points in 62 GP (36-20-6)

Considering Colorado’s games in hand, it looks like the Central race could end up being close. Managing at least one round of home-ice advantage might come down to grinding out wins like the one the Blues managed on Sunday.

As much as Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington credit the play in front of them, goaltending’s been a considerable factor in the Blues’ success. Marcus Foligno ended Binnington’s shutout streak at 142:51, but the larger point remains that it’s tough to score vs. St. Louis.

Wild get an extra push to sell at trade deadline?

The Wild built a modicum of confidence by winning two games in a row before this one.

Minnesota seemed to put forth a pretty good effort, at least early on. Sunday stands as another game where they may shake their heads at missed opportunities. Minnesota’s man advantage went 0-for-4, and also allowed a shorthanded goal that took any steam out of a comeback bid.

The Wild ended Sunday outside of the West’s top eight with 65 points in 61 games played. While this loss doesn’t condemn them outright, you have to wonder if GM Bill Guerin might be a little bit more willing to sell off another piece or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Ducks host Golden Knights on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Ducks have lost six of their last eight games (2-4-2), and are far off playoff pace in the Western Conference. They’ve scored only 19 goals in their last eight games and their power play is also tied-second worst in the league at 14.7%, only better than the Chicago Blackhawks at 14.1%.

Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins after the 1-0 loss vs. Colorado on Friday night: “We’ve got to keep trying to get pucks to the net. It doesn’t have to be a clean shot on the net. If you watch the highlights every night, there’s a whole lot of dirty goals being scored everywhere. I think we all remember the highlight one from the day, but if you watch all the highlights there’s a lot of dirty goals.”

The Ducks are 12-13-3 at home, earning only 27 points at the Honda Center this season. Anaheim’s 27 home points are tied for the second least in the NHL this season, with only the Detroit Red Wings having less (22).

Vegas acquired Alec Martinez from the Kings on Wednesday, giving up two second round picks (one in 2020, and one in 2021) for the veteran defenseman.

Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer on Martinez: “You can see how smart he is, how composed he is…He made a couple reads in that game where you can tell he’s a veteran presence back there. A young defenseman might have run out of position to chase a situation and he held and recognized and waited.”

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Vegas Golden Knights at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 23, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Golden Knights-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Max PaciorettyWilliam KarlssonMark Stone
Jonathan MarchessaultPaul StastnyReilly Smith
Will CarrierChandler StephensonNicolas Roy
Tomas Nosek – Gage Quinney – Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt
Nick HoldenShea Theodore
Alec Martinez – Zach Whitecloud

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

DUCKS
Max JonesRyan GetzlafRickard Rakell
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueTroy Terry
Devin ShoreSam SteelJakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDerek GrantCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Brendan Guhle – Michael Del Zotto
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

John Forslund and Brian Hayward will call the action at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBCSN will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury.