DALLAS – Mike Modano turned what should have been a meaningless game between a pair of also-ran teams into something memorable.
Modano had a goal and an assist in regulation in possibly his final home game with the Stars, then scored in the second round of the shootout to help Dallas beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Thursday night.
Modano will seriously considering retirement when the season is over, and he was overcome by emotion several times during the game.
“It was tough to leave the ice (at the end of the game), not knowing what the future holds, whether that was it or it wasn’t,” Modano said. “I didn’t really have an idea what to expect, but it was a nice way to possibly end it, how it unfolded. The fans were fantastic.”
Fans cheered Modano when he took the ice for warmups, displaying such signs as “1 Mo Year” and “Say It Ain’t So Mo,” and they roared when Modano was introduced with the starting lineup.
Modano was shown on the video board during a stoppage in play with less than six minutes left in regulation. He had tears in his eyes when he received an extended standing ovation.
Even the referees applauded Modano, and the Ducks on the bench stood and tapped their sticks on the boards in recognition.
“He (Modano) is the reason I chose (uniform) No. 9 when I was coming up,” said Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan, who had both of his team’s goals. “He stymied us tonight, but if anybody deserved it, it was him.”
Ryan’s power-play goal gave the Ducks a 2-1 edge at 15:16 of the third period. But Modano deflected Trevor Daley’s shot out of the air and past goalie Jonas Hiller with 1:47 left in regulation to tie it at 2. The goal stood after officials ruled that Modano’s stick was below crossbar level, although it was a close call.
“Maybe (the referees) threw me a farewell bone there,” said Modano with a laugh.
Rookie Jamie Benn scored off an assist from Modano, whose 557 goals are the most ever for a U.S.-born player.
In the shootout, Modano, who’d failed on his first five shootout attempts this season, beat Hiller with a snap shot. Stars teammate Jere Lehtinen, another veteran whose career is winding down, clinched the win in the third round when he fired a wrist shot between Hiller’s pads.
“It was a special moment, to see those flashes of brilliance, that (Modano) can still do it,” said Dallas goalie Marty Turco, who finished with 17 saves. “Tonight was about as good as it gets.”
Modano started the play on Benn’s goal that tied the game at 1 at 12:44 of the second. It was Modano’s 802nd NHL assist. Modano passed from behind the net to Lehtinen, who fed Benn in the slot for Benn’s 22nd goal.
With 3:39 left in overtime, Modano had a chance to win it when he skated in alone on Hiller, but failed to get off a clean shot. Hiller, who finished with a season-high 49 saves, also denied Modano during a power play with 1:26 remaining in overtime.
The 39-year-old Modano began his NHL career with a two-game playoff stint for the Minnesota North Stars in 1989. The eight-time all-star has been with the franchise since, moving to Texas with the team in 1993.
Modano, the franchise leader in 15 regular-season categories and 11 more in the playoffs, will close out the season, and possibly his career, Saturday night on the road against the Minnesota Wild.
“This was a great night for a player that played a number of years and has been the face of the franchise, not only in Minnesota but here,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.
This game could also have marked the final home appearance for Turco, who played his 509th game for Dallas. Turco will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and isn’t expected to be re-signed.
“If this was the last time I play here, it was one of my tougher games,” Turco said.
The Stars failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season, which hasn’t happened since 1987 and 1988.
With the team for sale by financially-strapped owner Tom Hicks, the Stars could look far different next season.
“There’s a huge potential for change,” Turco said.
NOTES: Benn has three goals in four games. … RW Teemu Selanne, C Todd Marchant and D Scott Niedermayer aren’t on the trip as the Ducks look at younger players. The veteran trio is expected to play in Anaheim’s final game on Sunday at home against Edmonton. … After the game, Stars players gave their jerseys to contest winners as part of Fan Appreciation Night. … Dallas LW Brenden Morrow was back in the lineup after missing a game with a bruised foot. … Stars D Philip Larsen made his NHL debut.