Cracknell scores tiebreaking goal for Blues

Adam Cracknell was forced to put his Christmas celebration on

hold when he got a surprise call telling him he was being recalled

by the Blues.

It was worth it.

Cracknell put St. Louis ahead for good in the second period

Monday night and the Blues scored two rare power-play goals in a

5-3 win over the Dallas Stars.

”I’ll take that as a Christmas present any day,” Cracknell

said. ”This is a dream come true. You can’t ask for anything

better than to play in the NHL.”

Cracknell spent much of Sunday traveling to St. Louis after a

late Christmas Eve call from the Blues.

Cracknell, who scored three goals in 24 games last season,

skated with the team for the first time this season Monday morning

and then made a big impact later in the evening.

He broke a 1-1 tie with the fourth goal of his career at 6:09 of

the second period.

St. Louis, which won its sixth successive home game, improved to

7-1-1 in its last nine. The Blues are 15-3-4 under coach Ken

Hitchcock, who took over for the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6.

Dallas lost for the third time in eight games. The Stars had won

the previous five games against St. Louis.

Chris Stewart scored twice for St. Louis including an empty-net

goal with 50 seconds left.

Evgeny Grachev and Jason Arnott also tallied for the Blues, who

improved to 14-3-1 at home. They lead the NHL in home wins.

The Blues scored two power-play goals in a game for just the

second time this season. They broke out of an 0-for-9 slump but

still have a league-low 14 goals with the man advantage.

Arnott pushed the lead to 3-1 on a power-play goal with 1.1

seconds left in the second period. Arnott, who has eight goals,

scored for the fourth time in the last five games after just four

goals in his first 29 games.

Grachev scored his first career goal at 6:45 of the third period

to push the lead to 4-1.

Dallas rallied with goals from Eric Nystrom and Michael Ryder.

Ryder cut the deficit to 4-3 with his 14th goal of the season with

5:13 remaining.

But Stewart scored an empty-netter with 50 seconds left to push

the lead to 5-3.

Hitchcock was pleased with his team’s effort especially the

season-best two-for-two performance on the power play.

”We played really hard and did a lot of good things,”

Hitchcock said. ”We really dialed it up today. We were firing from

everywhere.”

Cracknell was recalled to replace center T.J. Oshie, who will

miss at least two games with an injured left wrist. Cracknell

whipped a wrist shot past Dallas goalie Richard Bachman from a

sharp angle to give St. Louis the lead for good 2-1.

”I just moved my feet and tried to catch him off guard and it

worked,” Cracknell said. ”I saw it trickling in, Once it crossed

that goal line, I was very happy.”

St. Louis winger David Perron, who added a pair of assists, was

impressed with Cracknell’s first-game contribution.

”Guys like him need to step up and he did a good job of doing

just that,” Perron said. ”We’ve always got guys like him that can

do the job.”

St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves to improve to

7-7-4 after a 1-6 start to the season.

Patrik Berglund added two assists for St. Louis.

The Stars, who were outshot 38-23, fell to 12-3-1 when scoring

in the final ten minutes of regulation.

Bachman dropped to 5-3. He let in a pair of goals from bad

angles including Stewart’s first-period tally that put the Blues in

front 1-0.

”There’s no question, a couple of those goals, he would like to

have back,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. ”But we just needed

to put more pucks on the net.”

Nystrom, who brought his team to 4-2 with his 12th goal of the

season at 7:57 of the third period, said the Stars’ poor special

teams performance was the difference.

”We’ve been giving up too many goals on the PK (penalty kill)

lately,” Nystrom said. ”We were coming back, but they played hard

and they had that extra edge tonight.”

The Stars’ No. 1 goalie, Kari Lehtonen, is expected to return to

the lineup this week. He has not played since injuring his groin on

Nov. 26.

”He’s skated the last few days and he’s very close,” Gulutzan

said. ”I wouldn’t be surprised to see him against Columbus

(Thursday).

NOTES: Oshie will not play Tuesday at Detroit but is expected

back Friday against Nashville. … The Blues have given up a

league-low 19 goals in the first period. … Hitchcock guided the

Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999. … Dallas LW Loui Eriksson has

three goals and three assists in his last six games against St.

Louis. The Stars are 2-11 when trailing after two periods. …

Stewart had a game-high seven shots on goal.