Modano became the second U.S.-born player to score 500 goals and 39th in NHL history, leading the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
The 36-year-old native of Livonia, Mich., beat Antero Niittymaki on a rebound at 9:36 of the third period to move to within two of Joe Mullen for the career lead among American players.
Modano’s speed and skill has produced many memorable goals, but he was thrilled to reach the milestone at home, even with an ugly goal.
“I wanted to get it over with,” Modano said. “I wanted to do it here and celebrate in front of our fans.”
Modano joined Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Pierre Turgeon, Peter Bondra, Mats Sundin, Teemu Selanne and Mark Recchi as active 500-goal scorers. Modano has played his entire career with the Minnesota-Dallas franchise.
“It’s an amazing feat and he’s in an elite group,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “To score that many goals and do it with one franchise means a lot to him.
“His success is something he should be proud of.”
With the game tied 1-1, Jussi Jokinen gave the Stars the lead at 9:02 of the third period on a wrist shot from the slot. Just 34 seconds later, Modano extended the lead to 3-1 with his 15th goal and fourth in six games, knocking home the rebound of Jon Klemm’s shot that went off Dallas’s Antti Miettinen and onto Modano’s stick.
“We were hoping he’d get it sooner rather than later,” Miettinen said. “When he gets chances like that, he’s going to put one in.
“It’s nice to be involved in a big play like that. But it’s not about me, it’s for him.”
Modano was mobbed by teammates and cheered by the crowd of 17,618. When he went out for his next shift, it served as a curtain call as he was greeted by another roar from the fans.
“This is the loudest we’ve heard this building in a long time,” Stars teammate Philippe Boucher said. “Only a few players can reach this milestone and Mike has really stepped up and carried this team lately.
“He’s been a franchise player. As he goes, we go.”
Scottie Upshall and Joni Pitkanen scored for the Flyers, 3-6-3 in their last 12.
With Niittymaki pulled for an extra attacker, Philadelphia got to within 3-2 with 1:17 left on Upshall’s eighth goal of the season. That made Modano’s goal the winner.
Modano missed 23 straight games in December and January with a hip injury and is only now rounding back into form.
“The season was slipping away but slowly I’m starting to feel better,” Modano said.
Rookie Mike Smith stopped 17 shots for the Stars, who won their third straight and improved to 12-4-3 in their last 19 games.
Smith made a sprawling save on Jeff Carter with 4.1 seconds left to preserve the victory. Smith, who was giving usual starter Marty Turco the night off, improved to 10-5-1.
Joni Pitkanen added a goal and Niittymaki made 30 saves for the Flyers.
Lehtinen got the game’s first goal at 6:41 of the opening period on a shot from the slot for his team-leading 24th goal.
Pitkanen, who had three minor penalties in the first two periods, tied it 1-1 at 6:23 of the third period when he beat Smith on a shot from the left point while teammate Mike York screened the goalie.
But the night belonged to Modano.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened against us,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “He’s been a great player for a long time.
“It’s a great milestone for him. But I thought we got better as the night went on. We had a lot of fight and had our chances there at the end.”
Notes: Dallas was without D Mattias Norstrom (knee), C Eric Lindros (groin) and C Jeff Halpern (foot). … LW Simon Gagne (groin), D Mike Rathje (back), LW Ben Eager (ankle) and RW Mike Knuble (face) were out for the Flyers. … Dallas rookie RW Chris Conner left in the second period with a lower-body injury. … Stars LW and captain Brenden Morrow has been cleared for full-contact practice. Morrow has been out since Dec. 26 with severed tendons in his wrist sustained when he was run over by a skate blade. … Dallas dominated the first period, holding a 15-5 shots edge.