It was a good night for American hockey and a better night for the Dallas Stars.
Mike Modano scored two goals to equal and then set a new record for career points by an American-born player to help lead the Stars to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion Wednesday night.
The win, the Stars’ second straight on the road after losing three in a row at home, also enabled them to leapfrog over the Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division. It was also the Stars’ fourth consecutive triumph in San Jose, dating back to last season.
For Modano, netting two goals in the first five minutes of the contest was a sweet way to finally attain the record he’s been chasing all season. After going pointless the last three games, Modano looked sharp early and collected his 83rd career game-winner.
“It’s a great relief, a lot of weight off the shoulders, finally take a deep breath and enjoy it a little bit,” Modano said. “I kept telling myself to relax, play my game and try to enjoy it. Tonight couldn’t have been written up any better.”
“They were both good goals and everyone in the organization couldn’t be happier for him,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s been phenomenal what he’s meant to hockey in the United States and he has done this with so much class. I know he was getting frustrated but the most important thing was to keep playing his game and good things happened.”
On the other side of the ice, San Jose’s Jeremy Roenick, third on both the American goals and points lists, entered the night with 499 career goals. Although he did earn an assist, Roenick was unable to pick up his big milestone goal, but had nothing but good things to say about Modano, his friend and frequent teammate on U.S. national teams in several Olympics and World Cup tournaments.
“It was spectacular. He did his job and got his end of the bargain done, now it’s my job to get one,” Roenick said. “I’m so proud of Mike Modano, he’s been an idol of mine for a long time. I really think he’s the greatest player ever to come out of America, and not only that, one of the greatest players ever to play the game, and I’ve really been fortunate to play against him for many years, play with him on the Olympic team and you can’t say enough about what he’s done for the game, what he’s done for the Dallas Stars and what he’s done for American hockey.”
One game after notching his first shutout of the season in Anaheim Monday, goaltender Marty Turco was simply outstanding for the Stars, turning aside 38 shots, including several brilliant stops that had the Sharks shaking their heads. On any other night, Turco would have been the major story of the game.
Despite being outshot 39-12, the Stars delivered a solid, gritty, all-around performance.
But the spotlight belonged to Modano, who struggled at times earlier this season with the weight of the record on his shoulders, but he looked like vintage Mo.
“It was finally the last (record) of the bunch, it was something I was looking to at the start of the year to accomplish and get it over with, but it definitely means the most,” Modano said. “Certainly, a lot of guys you thank, coaches and people in the organization, (former owner) Norm Green, Tom Hicks, the whole crew, coaches past and present, and players along the way who’ve certainly helped out in that. You’re thankful you’ve been in the game this long, you appreciate it more certainly as you’ve gotten older and maybe the wait has forced me to appreciate it more.”
Leading 2-1 heading into the second, the Stars increased the lead to two just 2:12 into the period on Ott’s first goal of the season. He received a nice lead pass from Todd Fedoruk at the San Jose blue line and sped in on a breakaway. He made a slick deke to his backhand, much like Modano did on his second goal earlier in the game, and slid it through Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov’s pads for the 3-1 lead.
Nabokov did make a big save on Jere Lehtinen’s slap shot from the left face-off circle midway through the period to keep it a two-goal game.
The Stars then got a big break when it appeared that San Jose veteran Sandis Ozolinsh, who was playing in just his third game after signing as a free agent last Friday, had scored on a power play, but the goal was waved off. As Ozolinsh collected a rebound in the left circle, Milan Michalek fell back into Turco, knocking him over just as Ozolinsh’s wrist shot sailed past him and in. That prompted the officials to nullify the goal, because of the ‘incidental contact’ with the goaltender that prevented him from being able to even attempt to stop the puck.
Turco continued to shine in the final period, as the Stars were outshot 14-2, but managed to protect their two-goal lead. First, with the Sharks on a power play, Turco turned aside Alexei Semenov’s blast from the left circle about a minute and a half into the third, then seconds later, denied Steve Bernier’s shot from the slot.
On the same San Jose power play 45 seconds later, Turco robbed Jonathan Cheechoo, turning aside his wrist shot from the left circle.
Just over four minutes into the period, Turco made a big kick save on Michalek’s scorching wrist shot off the rush from the left circle kept the Stars’ lead at two, then stopped another wrister from Cheechoo 20 seconds after that. The Sharks held a 9-0 edge in shots in the period after five minutes.
Modano had a prime opportunity to pick up his first hat trick in over eight years midway through the third period, but his one-timer attempt from the slot hardly went anywhere after his stick snapped in half as he shot.
Perhaps his best stop of the night came with just 2:53 remaining as he slid across the crease and managed to get his pad on Ozolinsh’s one-timer from the left circle after a sweet cross-ice pass from Michalek, who led all skaters with eight shots in the game.
The Sharks pulled Nabokov with 1:50 to go, and then enjoyed a power play for the final 1:12 after captain Brenden Morrow was whistled for slashing, essentially giving San Jose a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Stars did an excellent job of clearing the zone and not allowing any more prime opportunities.
Turco started the game off extremely well and kept the Stars in it early as he stopped an immediate barrage of San Jose shots in the first two-plus minutes.
Patrick Marleau ripped a quick wrist shot from the left circle just 10 seconds after the opening face-off and Turco’s big save set the tone. He made another nice stop on Cheechoo 30 seconds later, then turned aside Michalek’s wrist shot from the slot through a screen 1:55 in.
Another 10 seconds later, perhaps Turco’s best save of the Sharks’ initial push came off of Mike Grier’s one-timer from the slot that he corralled in his glove.
At that point, San Jose was outshooting the Stars 5-0 and Dallas had yet to get the puck into the Sharks’ zone. But then Modano broke out of the zone on a counter-attack after accepting a lead pass from Sergei Zubov and then he launched a booming slap shot from the top of the left circle that zoomed past Nabokov’s glove at 2:19 to tie the record.
“I was surprised I had so much time,” Modano said. “There was fresh ice and I had a long look at it. I waited to get it on net and I was fortunate to put it past him.”
After the accomplishment was announced inside the arena, the 17,496 in attendance at the ‘Shark Tank,’ their 32nd consecutive sellout, classily gave Modano a standing ovation.
The Sharks continued their offensive pressure immediately after the goal, and Turco made another big save 30 seconds later, sliding out to stop Patrick Rissmiller’s shot to finish off a 2-on-1 break.
Then, about four minutes into the first, with San Jose on a power play, Turco made another impressive save on Michalek’s in-close deflection of Joe Thornton’s wrist shot. At that juncture of the contest, the Sharks actually held a 10-1 edge in shots, but amazingly, the Stars still had the lead.
Modano would increase the lead to two at 4:24 with San Jose still on the power play. Lehtinen helped him poke the puck away from Shark defenseman Matt Carle at the Dallas blue line, allowing Modano to take off on a breakaway. As he approached the net, he appeared to momentarily lose control of the puck, then regained it and slipped it between Nabokov’s pads for the 511th goal and milestone 1,233rd point of his outstanding career.
“It was a great play by Lehtinen and set it up and it’s fitting that guys like Zubie and Jere set up the goals tonight,” Modano said. “I’ve played with those guys a long time and it means a lot that they were involved.”
Again, the public address announcer noted the achievement and the stunned San Jose fans, who were watching their club dominate the Stars territorially and outshoot them 10-2 but still trailed 2-0, gave another standing ovation.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in San Jose,” Modano said. “They’ve been a classy organization, (San Jose General Manager) Doug Wilson and Ron (Wilson, Sharks coach), who have been good friends and good people to talk to as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve matured through the league, but it was a classy act on their part.”
“I’m really proud of the way the San Jose Sharks really gave him a good ovation,” Roenick added. “Here, it was really nice that they stopped the game for a bit, I’m really proud of them.”
About three minutes later, the Stars were enjoying a power play of their own, and missed a golden opportunity to go up by three when they were awarded a penalty shot. After Nabokov stopped Modano’s slap shot from the blue line, Mike Ribeiro took the puck behind the net and Nabokov accidentally threw his stick at him. Tippett could have chosen any Dallas player on the ice to take it and selected Zubov, but Nabokov deftly poke-checked the puck off Zubov’s stick as he prepared to make his move.
Turco continued to put on a show at the other end, thwarting Marcel Goc’s wrist shot off the rush just before the midway point of the first, then dodged a bullet seconds later when Goc’s wrister from the slot rang off the post.
With 1:25 to go in the period and the Sharks on a rare 4-on-3 power play, Turco made a sparkling sliding save on Joe Pavelski’s one-timer from the left circle.
But it was just seconds later that San Jose finally broke through and got one past Turco - on their 18th shot of the period. Carle controlled the puck at the right point, skated into the right circle, and then launched a wicked wrister that beat Turco to the far side with 1:13 remaining.
Overall for the period, San Jose outshot the Stars 18-6.
“I think we we’re lucky to come away with a one-goal lead the way they came at us, but they’re a great team in their home building,” Modano said of the first period. “We were fortunate to be one up.”
The Stars make their way to down to Phoenix Thursday night (8 pm, my27) to play the Coyotes in the third of four straight road games against divisional opponents. The Stars finish up the trip in Los Angeles Saturday night (9:30 pm, my27)
- Ott’s goal was his first in about 19 months, as he last found the net on April 18, 2006 against Columbus. Of course, since he was injured for much of last season, that only comes out to a drought of 38 games, including playoffs.
- Defenseman Mattias Norstrom left the game about five minutes into the first period with facial cuts, forcing the other Dallas defenseman into more ice time than usual. While Norstrom lasted just three shifts for 2:32, Zubov logged an incredible 31:32, more than half the game.
- Lehtinen’s assist on Modano’s milestone goal marked the 97th time Lehtinen earned an assist on a Modano goal, more than any other player. Zubov is second on that list, and his assist on the first goal was his 59th on a Mo goal.
- Modano’s second goal was also the Stars’ fourth shorthander of the season, which ranks second in the NHL and gives them more than they had all of last season. It was Modano’s 29th career shorthanded goal, which of course, is also a franchise record.
- Modano led the Stars in shots on goal for the second straight game, firing three on Nabokov.
- Turco earned an assist on Ott’s goal, marking the second consecutive game he’s picked one up. That was his 12th career assist, moving him past former North Star Jon Casey for the franchise all-time lead in goaltender assists.
- Turco was called for a delay of game penalty for the second straight game, for handling the puck outside the trapezoid area behind the net.
- Despite allowing one power play goal, the Stars were 7-for-8 on the penalty kill, and have now nullified 33 of their last 35 man-disadvantages.
- This was game eight of a 10-out-of-11 stretch where the Stars play teams in the Pacific Division. Now they are 4-4-0 in those contests.
- The Stars plan on having a special tribute to Modano for setting the record at their home game against Anaheim on Nov. 21 (the day before Thanksgiving), so plan on being there!