Modano moved within a goal of matching Joe Mullen for the most among U.S.-born players, and the Dallas Stars stretched their winning streak to four with a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
The 36-year-old Modano, a native of Livonia, Mich., notched his 501st career goal in the first period, then assisted on rookie Junior Lessard’s power-play goal later in the frame to help the Stars improve to 16-5-4 in their last 25 games.
On Tuesday, Modano became the 39th NHL player to reach 500 goals.
“That was a big goal,” Stars goalie Marty Turco said. “I’m sure he would like to get it out of the way and the sooner, the better. It’s unique and special.”
A few days ago, Modano spoke by phone with Mullen, now an assistant coach with Philadelphia of the AHL. Mullen sent his best to Modano in his pursuit for the record.
Stars coach Dave Tippett was a teammate of Mullen’s with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Tippett has developed a relationship with Modano during their four seasons together in Dallas.
“I’ve gotten to know American hockey’s two top scorers,” Tippett said. “They’re great human beings and great hockey players.”
The Stars had a scare with 8:40 left in the second when Modano was checked hard to the ice by defenceman Dion Phaneuf. Modano was trying to take possession of a lead pass at the Calgary blue-line and was down for about a minute after hitting his head on the ice. Modano was knocked woozy but was back for his next shift.
“That took a little wind out of my sails,” Modano said. “I saw (Phaneuf) and was able to get my hand up to take some of the impact. I was caught a little off balance. But I’m OK.”
Modano missed 23 straight games in December and January with a hip injury, but has returned to form with five goals in seven games to give him 16 for the season.
Dallas is 31-13-3 this season with Modano in the lineup.
Niklas Hagman added a power-play goal for Dallas and Sergei Zubov had two assists in his 1,000th NHL game. Turco made 30 saves, including a key stop on a breakaway by Calgary’s top scorer Jerome Iginla midway through the second period.
“Turco made some unbelievable saves,” said Iginla, who finished with 10 shots and one assist. “We felt that we had lots of legitimate scoring chances. We were in the crease and we were physical.”
Jere Lehtinen’s empty-net goal with 50 seconds left – his team-high 25th goal of the season – gave Dallas a 4-2 edge.
Matthew Lombardi had a goal, and Alex Tanguay added a power-play rebound for his 20th with 2:50 left for the Flames, 1-3-1 in their last five games.
Backup goaltender Jamie McLennan got the start for the Flames in place of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was rested for only the seventh game this season. McLennan made 23 saves.
Modano scored the first goal at 9:25 of the opening period, beating McLennan between the pads on a slap shot from beyond the left circle while Lessard screened the goalie.
“I got some room to get a shot on the power play,” Modano said. I was able to get good wood on it. I didn’t have many chances after that.”
Modano set up Lessard’s power-play rebound – Lessard’s first goal of the season and second in the NHL – at 11:53 of the first period for a 2-0 Dallas lead.
The Stars were on a four-minute power play after McLennan received penalties for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct. McLennan was angry over the call, contending his stick never connected with a Dallas player.
“The referee was upset at the terminology that was used as (McLennan) expressed his emotion,” Calgary coach Jim Playfair said.
Calgary made it 2-1 at 3:59 of the second period when Lombardi converted a centring pass. But Hagman scored his third goal in four games and 16th of the season at 14:21 of the second period to stretch Dallas’ advantage to 3-1.
Notes: Dallas was without D Mattias Norstrom (knee), C Eric Lindros (groin), RW Chris Conner (lower body), LW Ladislav Nagy (facial laceration) and C Jeff Halpern (foot). … C Craig Conroy (upper body) was out for the Flames. … Stars captain Brenden Morrow has been participating in full-contact practices, and Tippett said Morrow will play Saturday at Nashville. Morrow has been sidelined since Dec. 26 due to severed tendons in his wrist. … McLennan was hit under the mask on a slap shot by Dallas’ Philippe Boucher with 4:01 left in the second period. The mask was knocked off by the shot, but McLennan stayed in after being checked by Flames medical personnel.