ST. LOUIS (Ticker) - The Stanley Cup playoffs make for unexpected heroes.
Cory Stillman, not even on a playoff roster last season, scored 9:26 into the second overtime as the St. Blues pushed the two-time defending Western Conference champion Dallas Stars to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 victory.
Stillman took a drop pass from Scott Mellanby on the rush and ripped a one-timer past goaltender Ed Belfour's glove side, giving the Blues a commanding three games to none lead in the Western Conference semifinals series.
"I wanted to hit the middle of the net, that's for sure," Stillman said. "I was definitely yelling for the puck. Sometimes, you know when you want the puck and luckily, he (Mellanby) heard me. Hopefully, I can return the favor to him."
One game away from the conference finals, the Blues are where they expected to be a year ago. St. Louis won the Presidents' Trophy last season as the best team in the regular season but was upset by San Jose in seven games in the first round.
"I think we have some high expectations for ourselves as a team," Mellanby said. "We feel confident with ourselves that we are playing decent."
It was the 19th overtime in the playoffs this season but the first to go into a second extra session. Stillman ended an odd streak in which the road team had won the last 12 multiple-overtime affairs.
Last season, he played for the Calgary Flames, who failed to qualify for the playoffs. He was acquired by St. Louis at the trade deadline this season.
St. Louis goaltender Roman Turek needed to make only 25 saves and improved to 6-0-2 against his former club. Turek was the backup to Belfour when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999.
"Roman was outstanding," St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville said. "He continues to be a big factor in the outcomes of our games. He really rose to the challenge for the playoffs this year."
Buoyed by the return of center Mike Modano, Dallas appeared rejuvenated after losing the first two games of the series at home and opened a 2-0 lead midway through the second period.
"We had the lead going into the third," Modano said. "We tried to play it smart and conservative and not take too many chances."
But the Stars sat on the lead and were outshot 22-5 at one point after Brett Hull's power-play goal gave them a two-goal cushion 7:53 into the second.
The Stars are usually effective holding on to leads but the conservative approach may have put them in an impossible situation. St. Louis will look for the sweep at home on Thursday.
Dallas has not been swept since 1984, when the franchise was still located in Minnesota and known as the North Stars.
"There were five or six times either team could have won it," Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought if we could have won today and broke them, it would have done wonders for our confidence. But now we have to get back on the bus and go down that road again."
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders are the only teams to rally from 3-0 deficits. The Carolina Hurricanes lost the first three games to the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils in the first round before extending the series to six games.
"If we can pull this thing back to our rink, we can make a series of it," Hitchcock said. "All the games are close. You have to win the close games and right now, St. Louis is doing it."
After Jochen Hecht scored on a rebound to get the Blues on the board with 2:01 left in the second, Belfour repeatedly frustratd the Blues in the third.
But St. louis finally tied it with 2:15 left in regulation when Alex Khavanov took a feed in front from Jamal Mayers and beat Belfour with a one-timer to the glove side.
"Coming back from a 2-0 deficit against a great team, this might have been our best game of the year," Quenneville said.
"An OT win at home like this, it was crazy," St. Louis winger Keith Tkachuk added. "It's the best thing in the world to experience."
Nursing what the Stars called a mild left ankle sprain, Modano made his present felt early and set up Mike Keane's goal 5:29 into the first period. Modano shook off Pavol Demitra's check in the neutral zone and passed in the right faceoff circle to Keane, who ripped a slap shot inside the far post.
The Stars were 24-1-4 during the regular season when leading after the first period and appeared to be in control when Hull redirected Darryl Sydor's bad-angle shot in the second for his 90th career playoff goal.
It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Blues in 35 chances in the playoffs and ended the Stars' 0-for-24 drought with the man advantage.
Dallas killed a too many men on the ice penalty late in the first overtime after a bad line change and a hooking penalty to Brenden Morrew early in the second extra session.
But the Stars' age and injury problems may have finally caught up with them. The Blues appeared the stronger team as the overtimes wore on and had a 6-1 edge in shots in the second extra session.
"You get tired, but they get tired too," Mellanby said "You can't use that as an excuse. It's a mental battle, you try and stay dry, change shorts and change socks. We felt we were playing with some momentum. We felt we were just as fresh, if not fresher (than the Stars)."
Dallas center Shaun Van Allen broke his jaw in Sunday's 2-1 Game Two loss, cecond-line center Joe Nieuwendyk was hobbled by a lingering left knee injury and Morrow hurt his left arm just over a minute into the game. All but Van Allen were in the lineup on Tuesday.
Faced with constant pressure over the last 60 minutes of the nearly 90-minute affair, Belfour turned aside 45 shots.
St. Louis' Marty Reasoner thought he had scored the game-winner with 7:23 left in the first overtime and raised his stick, eliciting cheers from thee crowds. But Belfour fell on the puck as it straddled the goal line.