Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov did everything he could to deny the Dallas Stars' bid to tie a team record. It still wasn't enough against Mike Modano and the resilient Stars.
Blanked by Bryzgalov for nearly 52 minutes, Steve Ott and Modano scored third-period goals to give the Stars their franchise-high tying seventh straight win, a 2-1 decision over the Coyotes at American Airlines Center on Monday night before a national cable television audience.
The win extended the Stars Pacific Division lead to six points over both San Jose and Anaheim. The Sharks, idle on Monday, have five games in hand over the Stars.
Modano played a part in both goals after it seemed Bryzgalov was going to spoil Dallas' bid for lucky win No. 7. Whether on the power play or short-handed, Bryzgalov was there to stop every wrist shot, snap shot or slap shot the Stars threw at him before Ott finally cashed in on the 41st attempt with 8:15 to go.
"Our depth went a long way tonight and carried the load," Modano said. "We were on our heels there for a while, but we settled down and they didn't have too many good chances."
It was the second straight two-point night for Modano, who seems to be playing with more zest and vigor each time out. He may not have as much flash and dash as he did 10 years ago, but on Monday his contributions exemplified how vital he'll be in Dallas' stretch drive.
Just seconds before his goal, which came with Phoenix down two men after defenseman Zbynek Michalek lifted the puck over the glass in his own end for a delay of game penalty following Steven Reinprecht holding infraction, Modano kept the puck inside the blueline when he deftly knocked it down out of mid air along the left boards.
After a couple of passes between himself in the high slot and Jere Lehtinen in the left circle, Modano ripped a one-timer that blew past the Russian netminder with 3:12 left in regulation for his 16th tally of the year.
Modano also assisted on Ott's goal, the feisty winger's ninth of the season. Ott's slap shot from the top of the left circle trickled in after Bryzgalov was able to get a piece of the puck.
The Stars, who've won 10 of their past 12, finished with a season-high 44 shots, and outshot the beleaguered Coyotes by a 34-11 margin over the final two periods.
"That's a tough one mentally," coach Dave Tippett said. "We felt like we were pushing very hard after the first 10 minutes. We put lots of rubber at (Bryzgalov) and Otter putting one in really sparked us."
Goalie Marty Turco returned after missing the past two games because of a sore neck. He finished with 19 saves to secure his fifth straight win.
"Those games can be mentally taxing and it's tough to keep with it, but I was glad we did and got the goals we needed to take the win," he said. "The other teams in our division have put the pressure on us to win, and our expectations to keep winning are still there every night, especially with the games-in-hand and the tightness of the conference."
Former Star Niko Kapanen scored the lone goal for a reeling Phoenix team that has gone 1-4-2 over its last seven games. The Coyotes were also playing without their captain and leading scorer, Shane Doan, who was scratched because of a groin injury.
The two teams have split the first four games of the eight-game season series.
"We have a handful more against these guys down the stretch," Modano said. "We needed to initiate better early on and we will learn that lesson going forward."
Trailing 1-0, the Stars continued their territorial edge in the scoreless second period but were unable to solve Bryzgalov even after pumping 19 shots at him. One of the best chances came with five minutes remaining in the middle frame, when Modano rang a hard shot off the crossbar from the slot following a nice feed from Ott.
Turco was steady as well, and made several solid saves, including a daring one on Daniel Winnik with about two minutes to go. Winnik went in on Turco on a partial breakaway, but Turco dove forward to try and negate the opportunity. The puck snuck under the Dallas goalie, but slowed down just enough that Winnik was unable to corral it back in order to shovel it into the vacated net.
Phoenix grabbed a 1-0 lead nearly seven minutes into the game on Kapanen's power-play goal. After Jeff Halpern blocked Ed Jovanovski's slap shot from the left point, the puck slid to Joel Perreault in the high slot, and Perreault fed Kapanen in the right circle. Kapanen deposited the puck past Turco, who was scrambling to regain position after Halpern's block.
The Stars looked sluggish early on, and failed to register a shot during the game's first nine minutes, but began getting their legs to start applying pressure on Bryzgalov. Their best opportunity, though, was foiled by Jovanovski, who swatted away a pass to Brenden Morrow in the crease. Morrow would have certainly scored, as he was staring at a gaping net.
Mike Ribeiro also had a pristine opportunity, but his wrist shot from the high slot went off the post.
"You have little lessons throughout the way, and you knew they were going to start very hard," Tippett said. "I was disappointed in our start, but it didn't go our way until Steve Ott made it go our way."
The Stars will travel to Phoenix to finish off the home-and-home series with the Coyotes on Thursday night (8 p.m., FSN).
"Phoenix has been pretty consistent all year, and every point is so valuable, so we expect the same desperation when we see them on Thursday," Tippett said. "We will have to match their desperation and we better be ready to go."
--The Stars have won seven straight three other times in their history, with the last coming during a stretch from Nov. 22 - Dec. 5, 1997.
--The Stars will practice at Noon on Tuesday at the Duncanville Dr. Pepper StarsCenter, located at 1700 Main Street in Duncanville. The workout is open to the public.
--Turco is one win away from 200 career NHL victories.
--Prior to the game, gritty forward Krys Barch signed a two-year contract extension that will potentially keep him with the Stars through the 2009-10 season. He was in the final year of his original contract, but was a healthy scratch on Monday when Brad Winchester was inserted into the lineup.
--Winchester got into a first-period scrap with defenseman Nick Boynton.
--Prior to Monday's outcome, the winning team in the three previous games played between each other had scored five goals.
--Kapanen's goal was only the second power-play goal allowed by Dallas in the past eight games.
--Dallas now has the most wins in the league when allowing the first goal (15-14-1).
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