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Modano strikes late to lift Stars

by Brian Hunter

Marty Turco recovered from a sore neck that kept him out of the lineup for two games to make 19 saves for the Stars.
Shut out in their own building by the Phoenix Coyotes for more than 110 minutes this season, the Dallas Stars didn’t get discouraged – they just kept shooting the puck.

The offensive mindset eventually paid off: Mike Modano assisted on the tying goal by Steve Ott and blasted home the game-winner on a two-man advantage with 3:12 left in regulation as the Stars edged the Coyotes 2-1 Monday at American Airlines Center.

''You get frustrated, but somebody has to step up,'' Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. ''You've got to find a way to win.''

In the process, Dallas tied a franchise record – last set from Nov. 22-Dec. 5, 1997 – with its seventh consecutive victory. Marty Turco returned from a sore neck to make 19 saves in the victory.

Turco’s workload hardly compared to the onslaught faced by Ilya Bryzgalov in the Phoenix net – he stopped 42 shots, including 29 in the first two periods, but couldn’t come up with drives by Ott and Modano.

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“Bryzgalov played a great game – we just tried to get as many shots as we could and finally some squeaked by,” said Modano, who netted his 16th of the season and extended his NHL record for a U.S.-born player with his 523rd career goal.

Modano’s goal was set up by a pair of Phoenix penalties in the latter stages of the third period. Steve Reinprecht was whistled for holding with 5:02 left and defenseman Zbynek Michalek sent the puck over the glass on an attempted clear moments later to set up a Dallas 5-on-3 for 39 seconds.

Modano did an outstanding job of keeping the puck in at the blue line on another attempted clear by the Coyotes, then played a bit of catch with Jere Lehtinen as he set up for the perfect shot. Modano took a return pass from Lehtinen and drilled a one-timer from the high slot that eluded Bryzgalov and gave the Stars a 2-1 lead.

“Our ice is kind of slow, and that time of the game you’re able to maybe get some pucks that you normally don’t get in the early part of the period,” Modano said of his ability to keep the puck in the zone prior to the goal. “Just lucky – I just bounced it back, was able to keep it in, and everything happened from there.”

One could argue the Stars were due for a little luck after seemingly throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Phoenix goaltenders in two games this season in Dallas without having a goal to show for it. Mikael Tellqvist made 35 saves and shut out the Stars on Nov. 2 and Bryzgalov, pulled Sunday after allowing three early goals against Nashville, looked primed to rebound and match his backup’s effort.

Ott ended the Stars’ drought and evened the score with 8:15 remaining in the third when he wound up and took a shot from the left circle that grazed off Bryzgalov’s shoulder and into the net. Lehtinen and Modano drew assists on Ott’s ninth of the year.

''Those first 10 minutes, we were kind of sleepy,'' Ott said. ''But we picked up and controlled play the rest of the game. It was a team effort. It's not one guy or one line. It seems like we've been getting the job done with whoever we've needed. We were going up against a hot goalie. The only way to beat him is to keep shooting and hope one gets by.''

Up until Ott scored, it appeared Niko Kapanen’s power-play goal 6:59 into the first might hold up. Ed Jovanovski’s shot from the point was blocked by Dallas forward Jeff Halpern, but Joel Perrault collected the loose puck and fed Kapanen in the right circle for his seventh goal of the season.

The Coyotes, who sit four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, lost their fourth in a row.

''I gave my team a chance to win the game,'' said Bryzgalov. ''That's my job, that's what I have to do. I played well. It was so close to winning the game for our side. But they score with 3 minutes left, so it's kind of a tough feeling to lose the game in the last few minutes.''

Modano, who began his career 18 seasons ago with the Minnesota North Stars, has evolved into more of a defensive presence over the years, but the 37-year-old center proved with his 86th career game-winning goal that he can still supply the offense when Dallas needs it most.

“That’s kind of why they kept me around for so long, to be a difference-maker there,” Modano said. “It’s fun being out there when you’re up a goal, trying to defend, and when you’re down a goal, trying to score. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on both sides and try to play my game and do the smart plays at the right time, and you kind of get rewarded for it.”

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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