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Stars 4, Sharks 3, SO @NHLdotcom

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Mike Modano's shot would have fit in a mail slot tucked just underneath the crossbar. Jonathan Cheechoo's shootout attempt was inches high, clanging off the same bar.

That little space was the difference between the Stars' shootout perfection and the Sharks' frustration, between a veteran's savvy and a youngster's learning curve - between Dallas' dominance and San Jose's missed opportunity.

Modano had the tying goal, two assists and the first shootout goal in the Stars' seventh victory in eight games, 4-3 over the Sharks on Saturday.

Antti Miettinen also scored in the shootout for the Stars, who improved to an NHL-best 10-0 in shootouts this season. San Jose was inches away from a win on Cheechoo's attempt with a 1-0 lead in the shootout - but the league's fourth-leading goal-scorer couldn't fit the puck in the same slot Modano found moments later, and Miettinen finished it in the next round.

"I'm not thinking too much any more on the penalty shots," said Modano, 3-for-6 in shootouts this season. "You just get the feet moving. It's been working for a little while. ... We just wanted to tie it up in the third and get at least a point out of the deal."

Dallas even won a shootout without the help of rookie Jussi Jokinen, who missed the net on his attempt after converting his first nine shootout chances this season.

Instead, the Stars relied on Modano, their franchise scoring leader and all-around invaluable forward. Just as he's done countless times since joining the Minnesota North Stars in 1989, Modano got the big goal, tying it early in the third period on a breakaway.

"When things aren't going your way, he can step up to that other level," coach Dave Tippett said. "That makes him a great player. He's bearing down on opportunities. He's taking all the challenges, and that's a great sign for our team."

The Stars set an NHL record with their 10th come-from-behind win after trailing entering the third period - though four of those wins were in shootouts, which didn't exist before this season.

Dallas snapped the Sharks' four-game winning streak. More important to the Stars and the disappointed fans at the sold-out Shark Tank, Dallas flexed its viselike grip on its Pacific Division rivals, earning a point for the 15th time in the clubs' last 17 meetings.

Ville Nieminen and rookies Patrick Rissmiller and Milan Michalek scored for San Jose in a fantastic 79-second flurry late in the second period, with Rissmiller scoring his first NHL goal and Nieminen getting his first goal with the Sharks.

But Modano got the big goals in the third period and the shootout, and Marty Turco stopped Nils Ekman's final attempt. Turco made 25 saves for Dallas, improving to 17-for-21 on his opponents' shootout attempts, while Vesa Toskala had 18 saves for San Jose.

"They're fun, a great challenge," Turco said of shootouts. "We've been fortunate all year. That opportunity to get that win is right in front of you."

Jere Lehtinen and Niko Kapanen scored in regulation for Dallas, still fourth in the overall NHL standings despite stiff competition over the last two weeks.

"This is the end of a real tough spot in our schedule," Tippett said. "We managed to pluck a lot of points from this part of the schedule."

San Jose won the first four games of this six-game homestand, which concludes Sunday against Colorado, to move back into the playoff hunt after a disappointing season.

But the Sharks started with none of their recent vigor, managing just two shots in the first 12 minutes. Dallas went ahead on Lehtinen's power-play score after Jason Arnott fell and skidded into the San Jose net, drawing unheeded protests from Toskala and the Sharks' bench.

"I'm not happy with the way we played in the first half of the game, but we took control and got a number of scoring opportunities," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.

Nieminen, acquired from the New York Rangers shortly before the trade deadline, batted a loose puck over Turco's head and into the net several minutes after Kapanen's second-period goal for Dallas.

Just 32 seconds later, Rissmiller whacked the puck toward the net, where it ricocheted past Turco. Another 47 seconds after that, Michalek raced past Jon Klemm and flipped a backhand over the prone goalie.

"We had a chance to win it, but they're one of the best teams in the NHL," Nieminen said. "We're disappointed, but we're glad to get a point and keep some of our momentum going."

Notes: Dallas RW Bill Guerin missed his second straight game with a broken orbital bone. ... Toskala has started five straight games while Evgeni Nabokov is slowed by an abdominal injury. ... Lehtinen, who got his 30th goal, should surpass his previous career high of 31, set in 2002-03.

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