SAN JOSE, Calif. - Mike Modano could see the Dallas Stars' season sliding away over the past week, yet he suspected San Jose would be the ideal place to save it.
After all, some of the Stars' best moments of the last two years occurred in the Shark Tank. They added yet another big win Tuesday night, just when Dallas couldn't afford another discouraging loss. Rookie James Neal scored two goals, Modano had a goal and an assist, and Dallas snapped a five-game losing streak in the NHL's toughest arena for road teams, beating the Sharks 4-1.
Brian Sutherby also had a goal and an assist for the Stars, who handed the Sharks their worst home loss of the season just when Dallas' hopes for a playoff run appeared to fading with an embarrassing six-game homestand.
"It was just real strong from start to finish, all aspects," said Modano, who has 70 points in 76 career games against San Jose. "We were due for a strong performance. We couldn't go the other way any longer. ... It was a combination of what we did and what they didn't do. We didn't allow their big guys to get going like they did in the past games against us."
Although the Stars had lost their first four meetings with San Jose this season, players in both locker rooms agree the Stars play the NHL co-leaders better than almost anybody. Dallas knocked the higher-seeded Sharks out of the playoffs' second round last spring behind goalie Marty Turco, who made 24 saves Tuesday night.
Coach Dave Tippett isn't about to reveal his insights, but something about the Stars' game plan causes trouble for San Jose. The Sharks have been outshot just three times in their last 27 games - and the Stars were their opponent on all three occasions, including the 31-25 advantage Tuesday night.
"We needed something," Tippett said. "We needed to get rewarded for some hard work, to give us the jolt of energy that our work would be rewarded. ... That's two games in a week against that team that we've played very well. We didn't get rewarded in the first game, but we got rewarded tonight."
The win moved Dallas into 10th in the conference standings, just one point out of seventh place.
Joe Thornton scored the only goal for the suddenly struggling Sharks, who have lost three of four since winning 1-0 at Dallas eight days earlier. Backup goalie Brian Boucher made 27 saves in his third straight start in place of Evgeni Nabokov, who apparently has the flu.
The loss - just the Sharks' second multiple-goal home defeat of the entire season - dropped San Jose to 26-3-3 at the Shark Tank.
"Maybe they deserved to win the game in Dallas and they didn't," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "Nabby stole the game there. Tonight they played hard against us, and they deserved to win this one."
San Jose lost centre Joe Pavelski to a game misconduct in the final seconds of the first period when a major scrum erupted near the Dallas net. Pavelski was wrapped up with defenceman Darryl Sydor, and the officials told Sharks coach Todd McLellan that the mild-mannered Pavelski head-butted Sydor.
"I still haven't seen it," McLellan said. "To tell you the truth, I just went through the video to watch it, and it's not on the video. That doesn't mean it wasn't there. I'm not saying it wasn't there. I don't think the linesman makes things up, but I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it."
Pavelski's penalty eventually led to a 2-minute, two-man advantage for the Stars, who used 117 seconds of it before Modano put Dallas ahead 2-1 on a one-timer from Mike Ribeiro.
Pavelski said he was penalized for an accidental movement while caught up in the scrum.
"I was yanked down," Pavelski said. "(The penalty) kind of caught me by surprise. I don't think you can see it. Even if it is on video, you're not going to see anything hard by any means. It's one of those things, and I think the ref made more of a bigger deal of it than I think it was."
Sutherby padded the Stars' lead with a fluke goal early in the third period when the puck deflected off a defensive player and landed next to Sutherby as he came out from behind the net. The goal was Sutherby's first since Feb. 14.
Neal scored 83 seconds later on a sharp setup from Modano. Neal snapped an 11-game goal drought with two scores, giving the rookie 20 on the season.
The Sharks also lost big before the game when they acknowledged they'll be without two key veteran forwards for perhaps the rest of the season. Mike Grier and Jeremy Roenick both could be sidelined until the playoffs with injuries.
Notes: Dallas got C Steve Ott back from a one-game suspension for attempting to injure Anaheim's Travis Moen with an eye-gouge during a fight last week. ... LW Claude Lemieux was an apparently healthy scratch. The 43-year-old has one assist in 16 games with San Jose. ... San Jose recalled LW Lukas Kaspar and RW Brad Staubitz from the minors to fill its injury gaps. Staubitz fought Dallas enforcer Krys Barch in the first period.