It took some time to shake the cobwebs from an emotional afternoon, but the Dallas Stars production on the ice ended up not being overshadowed by the earlier events that took place off it.
Hours after acquiring Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a blockbuster trade, the short-handed Stars looked sluggish early but came on strong late in a come-from-behind 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. Both Richards and Holmqvist weren't in a lineup that also didn't include Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen and Mike Smith -- the players the Lightning acquired in the blockbuster deal -- and banged up defensemen Nicklas Grossman (facial bruise) and Matt Niskanen (bruised foot).
The roller-coaster day culminated with Dallas' 12th win in the past 14 games that padded its Pacific Division lead to six points over idle Anaheim. The Stars also made up a little ground on league-leading Detroit, which lost in a shootout to Edmonton on trade-deadline Tuesday. The Red Wings now lead the Western Conference by five points over the second place Stars.
"We eased our way into that game, but we felt like we were still in the game," coach Dave Tippett said. "We played a good third period and found a way to win."
Red-hot Loui Eriksson scored twice and Jere Lehtinen also tallied in a three-goal, third-period blitz that helped snap Dallas' four-game losing streak in St. Louis. Mike Ribeiro added a pair of assists to send St. Louis to its first regulation loss this season when leading after two periods (18-1-3).
"I have been trying to go to the net and I have been fed some really good pucks in front of the net," said Eriksson, who has five goals in his past three games. "I'm trying to improve my game every day, and I hope that I'm doing that. It helps when you're playing with guys like (Brenden) Morrow and Ribeiro."
Meanwhile, the Stars blueline was helped with the return of Philippe Boucher, who was playing for the first time after missing 38 games because of a shoulder injury.
The Stars were unable to generate much pressure through the first two periods -- they were outshot 26-14 -- against a St. Louis team that came in tied for the third-fewest goals in the league. But when they did finally manage to get going offensively in the final period, it was lights out for the Blues and their ironman goalie Manny Legace, who finished with 18 saves in his 21st straight appearance.
Striking for three unanswered goals in a 7:02 span in the third, the Stars didn't squander goalie Marty Turco's sensational play that kept them afloat in the second period. Turco, who finished with 27 saves, made 17 stops in the middle frame, many of which were of the spectacular fashion.
Turco made scintillating stops on Paul Kariya early in the stanza when Kariya tried to stuff the puck in along the right side of the crease. He then stoned Lee Stempniak's one-timer from the inside edge of the right circle with six minutes left, as the puck trickled wide of the net following the heavy shot.
Down by a goal, Eriksson continued his torrid streak after he scored just 2:27 into the final period when he was able to tap-in Ribeiro's cross-ice pass from the right circle to finally solve Legace, who up to that point had quietly matched Turco save-for-save.
Lehtinen gave the Stars their first lead over five minutes later when he scored his 11th of the season, converting another nifty feed from Ribeiro with a one-timer from the slot.
Eriksson then capped the surge by potting his 11th to boost Dallas' lead to 3-1 with 10:31 left in regulation. Lugging the puck through the neutral zone, Eriksson cut left after penetrating the Blues zone, and let go a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that eluded Legace.
"Loui does a lot of good things most of the time for us, even if the puck isn't going in the net, and Marty did enough for us tonight to win and that's what we need him to do," Tippett said.
Turco, back in the nets after taking a one-game break in Dallas' win over Nashville on Saturday -- Smith's final game with the Stars -- deflected any credit for the win, sending it Eriksson's way instead.
"Loui does all the little things very well, and has great hands around the net," Turco said. "He is playing on the top line and is getting a lot of opportunities, but he is making the most of those opportunities. I've had my eye on him for quite a while and we are very happy with his game."
Keith Tkachuk scored the lone goal for St. Louis, which lost its fourth straight while having its three-game home winning streak snapped.
The Blues opened the scoring early, taking a 1-0 lead on Tkachuk's power-play goal just 1:31 into the game. The stocky forward notched his 20th goal of the season from a sharp angle at the bottom of the right circle after Turco's errant clearing attempt was intercepted by St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer along the right boards.
Turco made up for the hiccup with a sparkling save on center Yan Stastny's one-timer from the slot late in the opening period. Sliding to his left, Turco was able to get his right arm on Stastny's point-blank opportunity.
Dallas was able to muster only six shots on Legace during the second, but had two excellent scoring opportunities denied by the diminutive goaltender, including Steve Ott's shot off the rush later in the period.
Richards will make his Stars debut on Thursday when Dallas hosts the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. (FSN). It will be the fourth and final meting between the two teams this season, with the Stars looking to improve on their 1-1-1 mark against the young Blackhawks.
Chicago lost to Anaheim on Sunday, a defeat that snapped its two-game winning streak. They will host Phoenix on Wednesday.
--The Stars recalled defenseman Dan Jancevski and goalie Tobias Stephan from Iowa of the AHL following the Richards deal. Jancevski was in the lineup, while Stephan backed-up Turco.
--Both Grossman and Niskanen are day-to-day with their injuries.
--Center Stu Barnes returned after missing the past three games because of partially torn retina.
--Ribeiro now has 47 assists, which sets a new career-high.
--Turco is now 9-2 in his last 11 starts, and is just two wins shy of 30 for the season.
--Dallas won its 40th game of the season, the 10th time in the past 11 seasons they've eclipsed that plateau.
--The win was also the Stars' 11th during the month of February, tying a franchise record for most victories in any month.
Wrist shot -