ST. LOUIS - Mounting come-from-behind rallies are becoming commonplace for the Cardiac Kids.
Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson scored third-period goals to erase a one-goal deficit and lift the Dallas Stars to a thrilling 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at Scottrade Center.
The win capped a sweep of the home-and-home series with the Blues, and sent St. Louis to its first regulation loss at home in 16 games dating back to March of last season.
It was the second straight comeback win over the Blues, and sixth overall this season where the Stars have rallied for points after being behind -- and the third time they've sent St. Louis into the loss column after the Blues grabbed a lead.
"I knew we have that in this group," goalie Kari Lehtonen said. "If we go down one or two goals, I just need to keep playing the same way and not get rattled and just believe in this group. Against a team that you battle for the playoffs, getting four points against them is great. We can build on this and move forward."
The comeback, though, couldn't have happened without the standout play of Lehtonen. The workhorse netminder, making his 19th start of the season, finished with a remarkable 35 saves in Dallas' third straight win, and fifth in the last seven contests.
Lehtonen turned aside everything the Blues sent his way in the first period when the Stars were slow out of the gate and were outshot by a whopping 13-4 margin. He and the Stars defense then shut the Blues down in the game-turning third period, allowing just nine shots on goal while getting a pair past St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak.
With the game on the line and Halak pulled for an extra attacker over the final 80 seconds, the Stars surrendered just two shots.
"Our goalie played well, especially in that first period," coach Marc Crawford said. "I thought our best period was the last one, and that's where we needed it to be. For our club, probably the most gratifying thing is that we had contributions from a lot of people. At the end, we persevered."
Benn tied the game at 1 with his fifth of the year just 1:05 into the third, snapping a shot past Halak from the right circle after receiving a nice feed from Mike Ribeiro.
Eriksson gave the Stars the lead 4:25 later on the power play. After accepting a cross-ice pass from Brad Richards, Eriksson neatly deposited a snap shot over Halak's shoulder for his 10th of the season.
Fittingly, it was Eriksson who drew the penalty that resulted in the winning power-play goal. He was elbowed in the Dallas zone by St. Louis center Alexander Steen.
"The first period Kari was our best player on the ice for sure," winger Adam Burish said. "He kept it close for us and kept us in a tie. In the second period we were better, and got better as we went on."
B.J. Crombeen scored, and Halak made 21 saves for the Blues, who dropped to 8-1-1 at home.
"We weren't moving our feet that well in the first," Richards said. "You have to give credit sometimes to the other team. They lost a tough one last night, and you knew they were going to come gunning. It probably wasn't the way we drew it up, but when you have a good goalie like Kari, he gave us a chance tonight to get us back in the game. We were down after two, but we felt that we got control of ourselves in the second period."
Twenty four hours after the two teams met in a revved up game at American Airlines Center, the Stars and Blues went toe-to-toe once again along the Mississippi River in a hard-hitting and intense affair.
"You come in late last night after another tough, long and hard game," Burish said. "You get here in the early morning, you sleep, you get some chicken and pasta in you and come to the rink. But that's fine. The game had some nasty in it, had some edge. These are the type of games that are going to make us better. A lot of guys haven't played in the playoffs before and this will kind of give us that feeling of what a playoff game would be like."
After a scoreless first period, the Blues finally broke through with just 1:11 to go in the second period when Crombeen pushed in his third of the season. Patrik Berglund's wrist shot from the top of the left circle barely squirted through Lehtonen's shoulder and body, and the puck innocently stayed in the crease before Crombeen shoved it home.
Burish thought he gave the Stars the first goal of the game with 12:42 left in the second, but after a video review it was ruled that he had kicked the puck in from in tight after he whiffed with his stick. It appeared that Burish was pushed from behind, which caused his foot to make a kicking motion when it connected with the puck.
"They said my skate was in a forward motion," Burish said. "It's one of those plays where I wasn't trying to kick it, I was just trying to battle with the guy in front, and try and get free. They said if your skate is going towards the goal they can't allow it, but I think it went in. I felt I was getting pushed from the side and it was kind of a battle. I told the ref that it's kind of hard to kick it when you're getting pushed from all over the place. They reviewed, so I guess that's how it goes."
The Stars were fortunate to get out of the first period in a scoreless tie, as Lehtonen kept them in it with spectacular goaltending as well as a well-deserved break. With 8:30 left in the opening frame, St. Louis' Chris Porter missed a gaping net from in tight after the puck ricocheted hard off the end boards and right onto his stick.
The Stars look to continue their hot streak with another road contest, this time at the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night (6:30, Versus). Carolina blanked the Boston Bruins, 3-0, on Saturday, and will play at Washington on Sunday.
-- Forward Brian Sutherby got into a first-period scrap with St. Louis forward Cam Janssen. It was the second straight game in which Sutherby got into a fight. He tangled with the Blues' Brad Winchester Friday.
-- These two teams wrap-up the four-game season series on Jan. 2 in St. Louis.
-- Lehtonen is 5-1-0 with one shutout lifetime against the Blues
-- Dallas improved to 5-5-0 on the road, and won for the second straight time away from home.
-- The Stars improved to 10-19-6 in St. Louis since arriving in Dallas in 1993.
-- Dallas was 1-for-3 on the power play, and killed off both of the Blues man-advantage opportunities.