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Modano bathed in cheers as Stars edge Wild in SO

by John Kreiser

The Minnesota fans Mike Modano once played for sent him off the ice, possibly for the final time, by letting him know how they felt about him.

Modano didn't do much during regulation and overtime, and his wrister in the shootout was stopped. Jamie Benn's goal gave the Dallas Stars a 4-3 win over the Wild to wrap up the regular season -- and perhaps do the same for Modano's career.

That didn't seem to matter to the fans at the Xcel Energy Center, who cheered him all night long. Modano even donned his old North Stars jersey after the game and skated around the ice to more cheers.

"I didn't know what to expect," said Modano, who played four seasons in Minnesota before the franchise moved to Dallas. "The reception was phenomenal."

Though he hasn't played for the home side since 1993, the Minnesota fans showed they've never forgotten him.

"Sometimes I wish I was in my prime playing here," Modano said.

Modano finished the season with 14 goals and 16 assists in 59 games. On Saturday, he missed the net twice and had another shot stopped. He lost 11 of 17 faceoffs and looked a little tired down the stretch -- not surprising for a player who turns 40 in June.

"But then there's games like the other night in Dallas (when he had a goal, an assist and the shootout winner) where you think maybe there is still some hope left," said Modano, who hasn't said whether he'll retire.

Modano was overcome by emotion during an extended ovation at home two nights earlier, giving Stars fans quite a show with a goal and an assist in regulation plus a score in the shootout. This time, he drew a standing ovation when a video of highlights from his days with the North Stars was shown during a first-period break. There were a few North Stars jerseys in the crowd, too, among the fans wearing Wild stuff.

"He's still got the skills and talent. It's just a matter of if his head's in it or not," said teammate Brenden Morrow, who had a power-play goal.

Steve Ott scored twice for the Stars, tying the game at 3-3 early in the third period. Mikko Koivu scored twice and rookie Casey Wellman got his first career goal for the

The Stars missed the playoffs for the second straight season, which hasn't happened since 1987 and 1988 when the franchise was in Minnesota. Modano was drafted with the first overall selection right after that.

Modano isn't the only high-profile Star who may not be back. Goalie Marty Turco, who yielded to Kari Lehtonen for this game, is all but certain to be somewhere else -- his contract expires after this season and he's not likely to be re-signed.

"You always want to get the last win," Lehtonen said. "It makes everything feel a little bit better."

Niklas Backstrom was back in the net for Minnesota after leaving the last game early, when a slap shot struck him in the neck. Regulars Owen Nolan, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat, Andrew Ebbett, Guillaume Latendresse and James Sheppard were all scratched.

The Wild had a disappointing season, too, the first year for general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Todd Richards. The team was beset by injuries, but also inconsistency, and the final few weeks featured extended ice time for several young players including Nate Prosser, the eighth native Minnesotan to suit up for the Wild.

Wellman, signed last month straight from the University of Massachusetts, scored 9 seconds into the third period, drawing a loud roar.

"These guys played a long, grueling season but I'm just getting started," Wellman said. "I'm sure I'll be ready next year, too."

Material from wire services was used in this report

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