DALLAS - Bolstered by the return of three regulars who had missed a combined 35 games, the Dallas Stars received key contributions from two players that together have played in all but one this season.
Loui Eriksson recorded his first hat trick of his career to become only the second player in franchise history to score five consecutive team goals, and Brad Richards scored in the first round of the shootout and added a goal and three assists in regulation in Dallas' wild 6-5 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center on Thursday night.
"It was awesome, a great feeling," Eriksson said about his inaugural trip into three-goal territory. "It was a good way to win too, picking up the win late. We have to work hard to get the points right now, and we found a way to win."
The win was the Stars second straight, matching their season-high set Nov. 30-Dec. 2 against Edmonton and Calgary, and fourth in their last six games to improve to 13-14-4.
James Neal also scored, and Mike Ribeiro iced it with a shootout goal in the third round for the Stars, who've won six of their last nine.
Goalie Marty Turco was shaky in regulation, but sharp the rest of the way. After allowing five goals on just 22 shots during the game's first 60 minutes, Turco came up big in overtime by blocking all six Columbus attempts, then denied Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash in the first two rounds of the shootout to secure his third consecutive win.
Nash sent the game into overtime with just 2:46 left in regulation with his team-leading 15th -- and second of the game -- by ripping home a rebound from in close to make it 5-5.
Columbus' Many Malhotra then thought he had won the game just 13 seconds into overtime when he drove to the net, before the puck wound up past Turco. But after a lengthy video review, it was determined he kicked it in, nullifying the tally.
"We got a lucky break in overtime, but we found a way to win," said Richards, who had just one point in his last seven games. "Tonight it was nice to get rewarded and help the team out. The last two weeks have been hard. "
Nine of the 10 regulation goals were scored in an explosive first two periods.
"We said last game, and I'll say it again, it's not pretty but we'll take it," coach Dave Tippett said. "The ice was tilted against us in the third, but the guys hung in there and found a way to get the win."
The Stars welcomed back Joel Lundqvist, Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas from injury. Lundqvist had missed the last 21 games because of a shoulder problem, Ott was out 11 games with a broken hand, and Robidas didn't play in the last three games because of a broken jaw.
"We've had a lot of guys step up and fill in roles the past few weeks, but those guys have been here and played Dallas Stars hockey," Richards said about the returning trio. "They've got a lot of extra jump."
Lundqvist joined Richards and Eriksson on a line and earned a pair of assists, while Ott set the tone for a physical contest with a couple of hard hits on Malhotra and Fedor Tyutin on his first shift of the game.
"The battling and the hitting is something I have to do to stay in the league," Ott said. "Nothing's going to change because I have a broken hand. It was an awkward game out there. You're up some, you're down some, and all of a sudden you think you've lost the game, then you win in the shootout."
Then there was Eriksson, whose amazing goal-scoring run matched that of only Don Grant's in team history. While playing with the Minnesota North Stars, Grant scored five straight times in a span of three games against Los Angeles, Detroit and Pittsburgh in Nov. 1973.
Eriksson scored both goals in a 2-1 overtime win over Phoenix on Tuesday, and the first three Thursday against Columbus.
"I was glad Lundqvist was back," Eriksson said. "He gave me a great pass. All my goals had great passes. I'm getting a lot of good passes. I'm trying to be more in front, and the puck is going in right now. It's fun. I think confidence is a big thing, and I'm getting a lot of ice time. It's always fun to be on the ice and help the team win."
"He's really played well this year," Richards said about Eriksson. "I love playing with him. He's smart, and it's fun to play with a young guy who's enthusiastic. That's the most success I've had on a line with those two guys (Eriksson and Lundqvist)."
Nash had a pair of goals and an assist, R.J. Umberger had a goal and two assists, and Derick Brassard and Huselius also scored for the Blue Jackets, who lost their sixth straight on the road.
Columbus' Pascal Leclaire was the loser, finishing with a mere 12 saves.
With the game deadlocked at 2 after the first period, Eriksson completed his trifecta 1:20 into the second period while the Stars enjoyed a two-man advantage, giving him 17 goals on the season. After the puck squirted to him at the top of the crease, Eriksson shoveled it home while being cross-checked to the ice by Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore.
Neal made it 4-2 79 seconds later with another power-play goal, deflecting Matt Niskanen's slap shot rip from near the middle of the blue line.
Columbus cut the deficit to 4-3 on Umberger's 10th goal 2 1/2 minutes later. Umberger, standing near the inner-edge of the right circle, neatly put away a short cross-ice pass from Nash, who was in the left circle.
Richards then made it 5-3 with his seventh, whacking home a backhand on his second attempt off a rebound from in tight with 11 minutes left in the second period.
Huselius' 10th goal cut the deficit to 5-4 with 5:22 remaining in the middle frame. Huselius was blocked by Turco on his initial wraparound attempt, but banged home the loose puck that was laying in the crease.
Nash opened the scoring just 1:34 into the game. During a delayed penalty on Richards, Nash banged home a rebound after Umberger's redirection of Jakub Voracek's pass went off the post.
Eriksson tied it with his first of the game while both teams were a man down. Eriksson completed a sweet give-and-go with Richards down low, converting Richards' return pass from beneath the goal line at 3:57 while setting a new career-high in tallies with 15 in the process.
Columbus regained its one-goal edge on Brassard's NHL rookie-leading 10th of the year. Accepting a pass in the neutral zone, Brassard walked in on Turco after defenseman Nicklas Grossman fell just inside the blue line. Brassard was able to make a move on Turco and put the puck in on his forehand.
Eriksson then tied it up again with just 1.5 seconds left in the opening frame, notching his fourth consecutive goal to make it 2-2 after 20 minutes. Lundqvist sent Eriksson a nifty behind the back pass after corralling Richards' rebound in the lower slot.
Eriksson didn't miss a gaping net, as Leclaire committed to Lundqvist skating to the bottom of the right circle.
"Loui had some timely goals at opportune times that gave us life," Tippett said. "He's been outstanding the last couple games. We had Loui penciled in for 20-plus goals, so we knew he had the potential. He's doing a heck of a job. He's a smart player with relentless work ethic, and he's a guy you can count on to do the job, no matter what."
Dallas will now embark on a two-game trip through Ontario, starting on Saturday night when they visit the Ottawa Senators (6 p.m., my27) The Senators, perennially one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, have been struggling. Going into Thursday's action, they found themselves in the basement of the Northeast Division with just 27 points.
The Stars will then play at Toronto on Tuesday to compete the Canadian excursion.
--The team announced Thursday defenseman Sergei Zubov will likely miss the rest of the season because of a hip injury that will require surgery in January.
--To make room for the return of Lundqvist and Ott, Dallas sent Chris Conner to Peoria of the AHL. Rookie Tom Wandell was reassigned to his Swedish Elite League team on Wednesday.
--Dallas was 2-for-4 on the power play after converting on just three of its last 54 opportunities coming in.
-- Neal was challenged to a fight by Brassard after Neal decked Tyutin in the right corner of the Columbus zone in the first period. Neal gladly obliged, and promptly produced a gash near Brassard's left eye with a powerful right. Brassard unusually called the fight off, and skated directly to the Blue Jackets dressing room to get stitched up. He didn't return.
--Lundqvist's only other point this season was an assist in the season opener against Columbus. He also finished with a game-high nine hits.
--Eriksson became the third Dallas player to pick up a hat trick this season, following in the footsteps of Fabian Brunnstrom (Oct. 15 vs. Nashville) and Mark Parrish (Nov. 7 at Anaheim).
--Defenseman Trevor Daley wasn't on the bench and didn't play the entire third period.
--Ribeiro had a pair of assists.
--With plenty of goals, extra time, a crucial replay review, and 2 1/2 rounds of a shootout, the game took 3:01 to play.
--Turco improved to 12-1-2 in 15 career starts against the Blue Jackets.
--Dallas has won three straight at home, and five of its last six at American Airlines Center.
--The Stars now lead the all-time series 22-4-4.
--Dallas improved to 3-11-3 when the opponent scores first.