Series (Game 3 of 4)

St. Louis leads 2-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 17th
Game 2: Saturday, January 5th
Game 3: Wednesday, March 20th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 3rd

Blues 2

(34-24-3, 79 pts)

Stars 3

(32-23-4, 78 pts)

8:00 PM ET, March 20, 2002

American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas

1 2 3 T
STL 0 2 02
DAL 0 2 13

R. Matvichuk (Stars - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

D. Hatcher (Stars - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

McKay leads Stars; Arnott arrives

DALLAS (AP) -- Of the four players swapped by the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils, Randy McKay had the least impressive offensive statistics.

So, naturally, he was the first to come through with a big offensive play.

McKay had two assists in his Dallas debut Wednesday night, including a nifty one-handed flick while his other arm was locked up by a defender that Kirk Muller turned into the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

"It just felt good to contribute," said McKay, who arrived in Dallas a few hours before the game one day after being traded with Jason Arnott for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. "It boosts your confidence. You don't want to lose your first game with your new team.

"My ice time had diminished in New Jersey, so it's nice to at least play and do something."

Arnott didn't play because of a bad back that's bothered him for more than a week. The Stars also were without Jere Lehtinen (ankle) and Pierre Turgeon (back), leaving them down three of their most skilled players in a game Dallas badly needed for playoff positioning.

"It's right there as far as big wins for us this year," Stars captain Derian Hatcher said. "After yesterday, and considering the guys we had out, it was a great performance."

The victory gives Dallas 78 points, tying Phoenix for seventh place and getting within one of St. Louis in the heated battle for the final spots in the Western Conference playoff chase, which also includes Vancouver and Edmonton.

"It was a frustrating game," Blues star Keith Tkachuk said. "It was the biggest game of the year and we didn't win."

McKay came to the Stars with just seven assists and six goals in 55 games with the Devils this season. So when he helped set up a second-period goal by Richard Matvichuk that tied the game at 2, it was an unexpected treat for Dallas.

Then, with 17:03 left in the third period, McKay fought off Jeff Finley and nudged the puck to Muller, who was wide open. He knocked the puck past goalie Brent Johnson for his eight goal of the season.

"It popped right out in front and it was a good play on his part," said Johnson, who stopped 20 shots.

The Stars acquired McKay and Arnott in hopes they can provide some grit in front of the net. The game-winning play by McKay quickly lived up to that.

"The thing Randy brings is size," said Hatcher, who used his own bulk to block four shots and dish out 13 hits. "His size made that play and he made a great pass."

The Blues, who were seeking the 1,200th victory in the franchise's 35-year history, went on a power play with 2:37 left but failed to score despite several good looks, including one from just outside the crease by Chris Pronger. Pavol Demitra started raising his arms in celebration after one shot, then wrapped them around his head when it went wide.

Dallas' Ed Belfour, relieved to make it past the trade deadline without being shipped out, made 23 saves to end an 11-game winless streak (0-8-3) against St. Louis, counting a four-game sweep in last season's playoffs.

The Stars ended a two-game losing streak at home and remained unbeaten in their last five.

After a scoreless first period, both teams scored twice in the second.

Sergei Zubov got it started for Dallas with a slap shot off a feed from Modano on a 5-on-3 power play. St. Louis took a 2-1 lead on a 50-footer by Alexander Khavanov and a shot by Ray Ferraro that ricocheted in off Belfour's leg.

Ferraro's goal was his second in as many games since being acquired from Atlanta.

Blues defenseman Al MacInnis was frustrated by all the penalties -- 18, including 10 in the second period. Dallas was 1-of-7 on the power play and St. Louis went 1-of-5.

"Referees have to realize that for a lot of the teams it's playoff hockey right now," he said. "They should just let them play and put their whistles away a little more."

Game notes

This was the first game Lehtinen has missed since reinjuring his ankle. He's listed as day-to-day. Wilson said he hopes to have Lehtinen, Arnott and Turgeon for the next game, Friday night. ... The Stars had played three straight overtime games. A fourth in a row would've been a franchise first since the five-minute extra period was added in 1983. ... St. Louis sent F Eric Boguniecki to Worcester of the AHL. ... Dallas is 15-1-3 the last 19 times it has scored first. ... Arnott was given Nieuwendyk's old number, 25.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press