|After recording an assist Monday night in the Dallas Stars 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, Mike Modano is just two points shy of becoming America's all-time leading scorer.
Unfortunately for the 37-year-old, the San Jose Sharks – Devin Setoguchi, in particular -- didn’t give him more of a reason to celebrate.
Playing in his first NHL game, the 20-year-old Setoguchi scored twice in the third period, leading San Jose to a 4-2 win over Modano’s Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, the Sharks were able to score three times on three consecutive shots. Setoguchi tied the game midway through the final frame, then gave San Jose the lead 2:34 later, when he took a pass from Joe Thornton and beat Marty Turco to make it 3-2. The Sharks needed only 17 seconds to make it a two-goal game, when Steve Bernier added an insurance goal to make it 4-2.
“I just came in and tried to do the little things, and do everything that Coach told me to do,” Setoguchi said. “I just wanted to move the puck, move my feet, go to the net hard and shoot the puck.”
By the end of the night, Setoguchi – the eighth player chosen in the 2005 Draft -- may have cemented himself a spot on the Sharks’ roster. The rookie injured his ankle late in training camp and was forced to start the season in Worcester in the American Hockey League.
“The last exhibition game, I rolled my ankle over,” Setoguchi said. “It was unfortunate, but I went down and got myself back into shape and came back with the mentality that I was still going to try and make the team. I came here tonight and played the best I could and tried to help the team get a win.”
Stars coach Dave Tippett was disappointed to see the defensive lapses his team suffered from late in the game, especially considering the fact that Dallas entered the third period holding the one-goal lead.
"There were some mistakes made by the guys that we rely on to shut people down, and it ended up in the back of our net," Tippett said. "Those guys didn't get the job done for us. We had a chance to get the goal to extend the lead when (Jere) Lehtinen hit the post, but our shut-down people didn't get the job done after that. It's as easy as that."
Sharks coach Ron Wilson was highly surprised to see the Stars cough up a late lead, especially considering the recent struggles of San Jose’s offense. The Sharks entered the game ranked 24th in the League with just 25 goals scored.
''We're playing a team that's like Tupperware,” Wilson said of the Stars. “Once they close the lid and burp it, you're done. In the past, we haven't had games like this where we've stormed back on Dallas.''
San Jose dominated the tempo early – it fired 16 shots in the opening period – but fell behind 1-0 at the 10:20 mark of the first on Mike Ribeiro’s fourth goal of the season. After Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made an initial save on a shot by Philippe Boucher, Ribeiro was able to collect the rebound and stuffed it home.
But the Sharks stormed back and tied the game just 1:51 later, when Joe Pavelski beat Dallas goalie Marty Turco to a loose puck near the net and swatted it over the goal line to make it 1-1.
Dallas regained the lead when Modano inched closer towards history, thanks to Matt Niskanen first NHL goal. Modano sent the puck to the Stars’ rookie, who let go a shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off a Sharks’ defenseman and past Nabokov to make it 2-1. It was the 1,231st point of Modano’s career, pulling him within one point of Phil Housley for the all-time lead by a U.S. player.
"I did some good things tonight, but I also had a turnover that I need to learn from," Niskanen said. "It felt great to score my first goal and it was very memorable. I'm glad to get the first one, but I would've liked a better result. I got a good shot off, it hit a skate or something, and I saw it flutter in. I was just so excited. I need to keep chipping in and learn from my mistake tonight."
While Modano will certainly smile once he breaks Housley’s record, he’s much more concerned at the moment with his team’s inability to hold or extend leads. The first and most important step in the process is trying to figure out why it’s happening in the first place.
"It's hard to pin-point just one thing,” Modano said. “It's been tough for us to extend leads and we just don't get that one goal to extend the lead. We were playing cautious, and when you play like that, it's going to come back to haunt us."
As for the record, Modano wants it to come sooner rather than later, so the Stars can focus more on the real task at hand – winning hockey games.
''I want to get it behind us and move on,'' he said.
Material from wire services was used in this report.