Despite blowing a two-goal, third-period lead, the Dallas Stars had the St. Louis Blues right where they wanted them when time expired in overtime.
Mike Modano scored the lone shootout goal and also potted one in regulation, and the Stars withstood Paul Kariya's hat trick to defeat the Blues 5-4 at American Airlines Center on Saturday night.
The win was Dallas' fourth straight and eighth in the last nine games, and helped sustain its three-point lead atop the Pacific Division over San Jose.
Niklas Hagman, Stu Barnes and Mike Ribeiro also scored for the Stars, who snapped their three-game losing streak against the struggling Blues. Goalie Mike Smith made 27 saves, and improved to a perfect 3-0 lifetime in shootouts.
"It was a wild one," said Ribeiro, who looked as if he'd scored the winner when he gave Dallas a 4-3 lead with five minutes left in regulation with his career-high 21st goal of the season. "We got the lead and lost it. They played well. Once again everyone chipped in. Two points is the big thing. We could have played better, but the win is the main thing. A team effort and we're happy with the win."
David Perron also scored for St. Louis, which has lost four straight and eight of its last 10.
"It's a long season and there are going to be crazy games like this, but I thought we stuck with it and we'll definitely take the two points," Barnes said.
Up by a pair of goals after Modano scored four minutes into the third, the Stars seemed to get ready to settle into their comfort zone. That's when Kariya went to work, scoring three times in the final 15 minutes, including sending the game into overtime when his slap shot from along the right boards got by Smith after it appeared to deflect off defenseman Nicklas Grossman's stick with 11 seconds to go.
"Great speed and a great shot," Modano said about Kariya. "We've seen that before. He's a good player."
But it was Modano who gave the Stars the bonus point in the shootout, beating St. Louis goalie Hannu Toivonen with a wrist shot between the legs in the third-round. Smith made a spectacular glove save in the second round on Kariya, and Lee Stempniak's attempt to tie it following Modano's goal rang off the post.
"Sometimes it's nice to go late and get a feeling on what the goalie was going to do," Modano said. "I wanted to get it off quick and keep it low."
After a scoreless second period, Modano gave the Stars some breathing room when he scored his 12th of the season and 519th of his career. Jeff Halpern skated with the puck along the boards on the right side, and after he emerged from behind the net he sent a pass to Modano, who was standing in the high slot. The feed was perfect, and Modano didn't waste it, one-timing a wicked blast that blew past Toivonen to give the Stars a 3-1 lead.
But the two-goal edge was short-lived, as Kariya scored 91 seconds later to make it 3-2, then struck again to tie the game with 9:29 left in regulation. On the tying goal, Kariya picked up the puck in the neutral zone after a Dallas turnover and immediately fed Keith Tkachuk at the middle of the Stars blueline. Tkachuk penetrated the zone and slid the puck to Brad Boyes in the left circle. Boyes then sent a pass to Kariya in the slot, and the speedy forward deposited a wrist shot into the net.
Ribeiro converted Brenden Morrow's cross-ice pass to give Dallas the lead once again, but Kariya put the game into the extra-session with his 11th of the season.
Both teams had an opportunity to win it in overtime. Modano's wrist shot from the slot went just wide with 35 seconds remaining, while St. Louis defenseman Jay McKee's slap shot from the middle of the ice just inside the blue line was gobbled up by Smith with 11 seconds left.
"Obviously that's not the way you want to win hockey games, but we got the win and that is the most important thing," Smith said. "We got it done in the shootout."
The Stars grabbed a 1-0 lead when Hagman scored his 14th of the season 8:14 into the opening period. Standing right above the crease, Hagman one-timed Jussi Jokinen's pass from behind the goal line past Toivonen.
Dallas pushed the lead to 2-0 when Barnes scored his fourth of the year just 47 seconds later. The play actually began after Krys Barch, Joel Lundqvist and Sergei Zubov combined on a nifty setup off the rush. But Zubov's wrist shot from the lower right circle whistled wide and around the left boards, where Barnes was able to corral the loose puck and skate into the corner with it. Barnes then sent a pass to the front of the net that bounced off Tkachuk's calf and into the net.
Tkachuk was able to redeem himself when he helped set-up Perron's seventh at 13:15 of the period that cut Dallas' lead to 2-1. With the puck lying in the slot, Tkachuk nudged it to Perron, who was near the left faceoff dot. The rookie unleashed a quick wrist shot that eluded Smith.
"(Kariya) had a great period and did what a top player does -- he plays well and makes plays to give his team a chance to win," coach Dave Tippett said. "Points are fine but we have to play much better than that. We snuck one out tonight but we'll have to play better."
The Stars will ring in 2008 with their annual New Years Eve game on Monday against the Nashville Predators (7:30, FSN). It's the second meeting between the two teams, with Nashville winning 5-1 in the third game of the season back in October.
The Predators are coming off a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night, and have lost seven of their last 10.
--Defenseman Mattias Norstrom missed his third consecutive game because of a leg injury.
--Jokinen injured his leg in the first period and didn't return. He'll be re-evaluated on Sunday. "To lose a player like that in the game hurts you because you lose a little rhythm in your lines," Tippett said.
--Barnes has a three-game goal-scoring streak.
--Perron's goal snapped St. Louis' scoreless string at 147 minutes, 46 seconds.
--The Stars had scored six straight goals before Perron's tally. They netted four consecutive goals in the third period of their 8-3 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
--Halpern had two assists, and has five points in his last three games.
--Stephane Robidas garnered an assist on Ribeiro's goal, his second straight game with a helper.
--Both Ribeiro and Morrow each extended their point streak to five games.
--The Stars have won nine of their last 11 at home.
1 - 0 DAL
2 - 0 DAL
2 - 1 DAL
3 - 1 DAL
3 - 2 DAL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 DAL
4 - 4 Tie
Holding the stick