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Perron leads Blues past Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- It wasn't the kind of 60-minute effort St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock wants from his players on an every-night basis. But he and the Blues will gladly take their two points and go home.

David Perron scored twice in a three-goal second period as the Blues survived a slow start and held on at the end to beat the injury-plagued Dallas Stars 4-3 before 17,131 at American Airlines Center on Saturday night.

"We had three different periods," Hitchcock said. "First period, we just threw our sticks on the ice. We looked at who was injured [for Dallas] and then thought well, this'll be an easy night and found out it wasn't. We dug in big time second period and then we couldn't extend the lead in the third and they came back. But it was like three different hockey games for us."

The Stars made the Blues work right to the end despite missing injured first-line forwards Jaromir Jagr (back) and Derek Roy (groin). Dallas is also missing perhaps its best forward, Jamie Benn, who didn't sign until late in the week and wasn't dressed.

The Blues struck first when recently signed defenseman Wade Redden blistered a slapper from the blue line past rookie goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp at 5:31 of the opening period. Nilstorp was screened and never saw the shot from Redden, who found the back of the net for the first time since March 2010, when he was with the New York Rangers.

"He really played well," Hitchcock said of Redden's performance in his second game after being signed by the Blues following a buyout from the Rangers. "He arguably might have been our best defenseman. That's a really good sign for us."

Nilstorp stopped 25 of 29 shots in his second NHL start before leaving with a groin injury in the third and fell to 0-2-0. Jaroslav Halak stopped 20 of 23 shots he faced and improved to 3-0-0 on the season. Kari Lehtonen stopped all three shots he faced in relief of Nilstorp.

"He tweaked his groin," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Nilstorp's injury. "Once we got him to the bench there at the first timeout, we saw him laboring. By the time we got him over, he was fine. He said I want to try and the second time, we talked to him and he was hurting a little bit. At that juncture, we were one shot away, so we made the change."

Even though Lehtonen didn't start the game due to what Gulutzan called a tweak after morning skate, the Dallas coach had little reservation about putting his starter in for a rare relief stint.

"We made sure he [Lehtonen] was ready," Gulutzan said. "So prior to the first timeout, Kari had been getting ready there. We just waited until he was ready and made the change."

Dallas tied the game 26 seconds after Redden's tally on a goal by Tomas Vincour. Eric Nystrom dug the puck out from behind the Blues net and flipped a pass to Vernon Fiddler. He quickly spotted Vincour, who was making his season debut for the Stars, inside the right circle. Halak stopped Vincour's initial shot, but Vincour put home his own rebound to get Dallas even.

Vincour had 10 points in 47 games for the Stars last season, but started the year with Texas of the American Hockey League before being recalled last Thursday. He had 19 points in 39 games in the AHL prior to being recalled.

Halak stopped Michael Ryder's wrister during a power play, but Ryder put the Stars ahead at 12:40 when he put a backhander past Halak. Alex Goligoski's from the blue line struck Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was standing in front of his own net, and came right to Ryder, who scored his 200th NHL goal.

With two-thirds of his first line missing, Gulutzan moved Tom Wandell up to center his top group with rookie Reilly Smith filling in for Jagr on the left wing. Gulutzan also dropped captain Brenden Morrow from the third to the fourth line to create space for Vincour on the third line. Colton Sceviour, who was recalled from the AHL on Saturday morning, centered the fourth line alongside Ryan Garbutt and Morrow.

"I learned we have some work to do as a group and to get a little bit more efficient on the ice," Gulutzan said of his team's performance in back-to-back losses to Chicago and St. Louis. "But I also learned that we've got some young players that are ready for more. We might have to go through some growing pains but at the end of the day, they did well."

Dallas led 2-1 after one period, but the Blues scored three straight goals in the second. Perron tied it with his first of the season at 10:51, beating Nilstorp with a wrister to his left skating after around three Dallas players.

Chris Stewart tapped in a superb cross-ice feed from Patrik Berglund at 16:32 to put St. Louis ahead to stay. With time running out, rookie Vladimir Tarasenko intercepted a bad pass by Trevor Daley and fed Perron, who beat Nilstorp with 16 seconds left in the period for a 4-2 lead.

"I think the second half of the first was probably one of our worst periods in a long time," Perron said. "We got that one out of the way and we found a way to get the win tonight."

Dallas got within 4-3 at 2:24 of the third, when Garbutt took a passout from Morrow and beat Halak with a wrist shot. Sceviour was credited with the secondary assist, the first point of his NHL career.

Ray Whitney broke in alone after the Stars pulled Lehtonen for an extra attacker, but he rang the left post with 1:03 to play. The Stars kept pushing and had a 6-on-4 power play after Barret Jackman was penalized with 14 seconds to play, but couldn't get the puck past Halak.

"I think we had them buried and we let them up off the mat," Hitchcock said. "Then they came after us in the third period at the end there. Those are lessons learned to get ready for next game. If we play like this tomorrow night in the third period, we're going to lose by about six."

St. Louis will complete the back-to-back, their second of the season, on Sunday at Minnesota while Dallas begins a two-game road swing on Monday at Columbus, a game that should mark the season debut of Benn, who signed a five-year contract on Thursday. The Stars could also get Jagr and Roy back from injury during the trip.

"We're hoping to get big No. 14 back," Gulutzan said of Benn, an All-Star last season. "It's a tough road trip. Hopefully we can build off a little juice of getting 14 back in the lineup, getting [Jagr] and [Roy] back in there and get clicking again."

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