By Lou Korac
Perhaps Dmitry and Marina Barbashev could stay in St. Louis a bit longer.
The parents of Ivan Barbashev made the long trek from Moscow, along with Barbashev’s younger brother Max, to visit the Blues center iceman for the first time. They arrived on Monday to see the 23-year-old live and in person.
They couldn’t have picked a better time since Barbashev gave each of them a treat, a goal for every family member to equal out to his first NHL hat trick in a 5-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings before 18,272 at Enterprise Center on Thursday.
Barbashev’s parents arrived in time to see the Blues throttle the Edmonton Oilers, 7-2, on Tuesday to get accustomed to life in America. They’ll be here until April 2, prompting Barbashev to joke, “Yeah, I’ll let tired of it, don’t worry.”
But he gave them something to cheer about in a game the Blues (39-27-8) didn’t play their best but found a way to grind out two points.
“It feels great,” said Barbashev, who became the 11th player to reach double digits in goals with 12. “It’s their second game here to watch me and it was unbelievable. It was a good feeling.”
It marked the second straight game that the Blues, who moved four points ahead of the Dallas Stars for third place in the Central Division after the Stars lost 3-1 to Colorado and within four points of Nashville for second after the Predators lost 2-1 in a shootout to Pittsburgh, got production from a newly-formed line that came together after a couple injured players came back to give interim coach Craig Berube options.
Barbashev, Alexander Steen and Zach Sanford, the anointed fourth line, accounted for seven points (three goals, four assists) a game after Jaden Schwartz, Oskar Sundqvist and David Perron accounted for nine points (four goals, five assists).
They were needed in a game the Blues weren’t necessarily at their best but found a way to grind out goals and grind the Red Wings (26-38-10) in their zone when Detroit came at them with speed and tenacity.
“I thought our first period wasn’t really good, but the second and third, we just started playing better,” Barbashev said. “We played physical. It was a lot of fun to be out there.”
Pat Maroon scored in his fourth straight game, a career-best streak, and Sundqvist also scored. Jordan Binnington made 20 saves to improve to 11-0-1 against the Eastern Conference.
“I thought it was a grind the whole game, pretty much,” Berube said. “Not a clean game. Fourth line, excellent game, they’re doing a real good job for us.”
Steen had three assists, his first multi-point game since Dec. 27 against Buffalo (29 games) and first points in 12 games. Steen’s assist on Barbashev’s second goal was his 600th point in the NHL. He and his father Thomas Steen (817) became the fourth father-son duo to each have at least 600 points in the NHL, joining Gordie (1,850) and Mark Howe (742), Bobby (1,170) and Brett Hull (1,391), and Peter (1,239) and Paul Stastny (678).
“Something to look back on later,” Steen said. “Cool names to be in there with and especially to be in there with the Stastnys is a little extra special.”
The line was the epitome of what was needed to win on Thursday with its grinding, forechecking, hitting style that created net-front goals and allowed the Blues to establish a lead after falling behind 1-0 just two minutes into the game,
“In the second period, we stopped making turnovers and we just put it deep and we went there and just play physical,” Barbashev said. “I think everybody had a helluva game.”
“They’ve been playing extremely well,” Steen said of Barbashev and Sanford. “I thought last game we had a lot of chances and could have buried some more. Both guys worked extremely hard, ‘Sanny’ is very physical and supported the puck. The one goal ‘Barby’ scored, he was physical but ‘Sanny’ was the one that the puck stuck. They’re playing great right now, ‘Barby’ to get three tonight was awesome. He’s got family in town. It’s a good touch.”
Thomas Vanek, who scored twice, gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at 2:05 of the first period on a rebound after the Blues were backing in on a 3-on-2. Binnington left a dangerous rebound in the slot and the puck go to the net where Vanek was able to get two whacks at it. But Sundqvist tied it 1-1 at 11:46 when David Perron, chipped a puck in and defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who has an assist in three straight games, read the play and went in and fed Sundqvist a pass off the backhand before he was able to beat Jonathan Bernier high glove side.
Perron had the secondary assist to extend his point streak to 17 games (nine goals, 13 assists). It’s the fourth time in Blues history a player has had at least one point in 17 consecutive appearances, joining Brett Hull (25 games in 1991-92, 20 in 1989-90) and Blake Dunlop (19 games in 1981-82).
“The first period was a little slow start, but I thought the second and third, we came on, we played our game,” Maroon said.
Barbashev gave the Blues a 2-1 lead at 3:22 of the second period after getting to a loose puck in front and poked it high into the net. Steen hit the post off a 2-on-1 with Sanford initially, but the Blues kept at it. Barbashev made it 3-1 at 8:16 on his own rebound when Sanford’s forecheck initially helped make the play and Barbashev made a big hit on Detroit’s Michael Rasmussen before getting to the net.
“When I talked to ‘Barby’ or our coaching staff, we talked about ‘Barby’ being a power forward more, banging and crashing and getting to the net and scoring dirty goals around there,” Berube said. “He’s capable of that stuff.”
Detroit wouldn’t go away when Vanek cut it to 3-2 at 8:48 of the third period on a slap shot from the top of the left circle that the Blues thought about challenging for goalie interference when Tyler Bertuzzi went tumbling over Binnington. But the coaches left it alone since Alex Pietrangelo shoved Bertuzzi in there. But Maroon’s goal made it 4-2 at 10:19 to eliminate any Detroit momentum.
He scooped a backhand in when the Blues sent traffic to the net again and converted Robert Thomas’ soccer-style kick pass to the right of Bernier.
“I think that’s what we’ve been talking about all year,” Maroon said. “Especially on that stretch we had where it’s just when someone scores you’ve got to find a way to bounce back, get the next one. Our line went out there, got back to our game, grinding them down low. Getting high-to-low, screens in front and found a way to get the rebound. [Robert] Thomas made a heck of a play with his skate, making that pass. So we found way to get it done tonight.
“… We found ways to go to the net and get some ugly goals tonight. Barby did a heck of a job on his first two goals tonight and got rewarded. They’re a hard team over there. They play fast. They’re hard to play against. And I thought we did a good job.”
Barbashev completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal to extend the lead to 5-2 at 19:11.
“I actually was trying to put it low in the net but somehow it just went up,” Barbashev said. “I just probably got a little nervous.”
The Blues, 2-0-0 on this four-game homestand, now will be tested greatly with visits from the league’s best team, Tampa Bay, on Saturday and red-hot Vegas on Monday.
“Play hockey. Consistency,” Berube said. “We’ve got the best team in the league coming in here Saturday. We’re going to have to play well.”
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports