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Team defense deserves the credit, Modano says

12/3/2001

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Mike Modano is scoring in
bunches again for the Dallas Stars, and he credits the outbreak to
better team defense.

Modano had a goal and an assist, and Martin Rucinsky scored the
go-ahead power-play goal early in the third period as the Stars won
their fourth consecutive game with a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver
Canucks on Sunday night.

With the game tied 2-2, Rucinsky took a wrist shot that
handcuffed Dan Cloutier, who got a piece of the puck with his
glove, but couldn't keep it from squirting slowly over the line
behind him at 7:40. It was Rucinsky's second goal in as many
nights.

"We had to get back to what has given us a lot of success the
last four or five years and that was playing good defensive
hockey," said Modano, who has five goals and seven assists in the
last nine games. "We finally realized our offensive opportunities
are going to come from defense.

Richard Matvichuk and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored, and Jere
Lehtinen had two assists for Dallas, which is 4-0-2 in its last six
games.

"Offense wasn't going to come from trying to make offensive
plays and trying to wind it up and run-and-gun with teams," Modano
said. "We have to be a little more disciplined and smart with our
decisions with the puck, and in turn we are getting more chances.

Ed Jovanovski had a goal and an assist, and Trevor Linden also
scored for the Canucks, who are 0-3-1 in their last four.

"Losing is not fun," Jovanovski said. "We battled back but
let it get away again in the third period. The tide can turn so
quickly against this team."

Vancouver had most of the early chances after the Stars, who
came in as the league's least penalized team, found themselves
killing off a pair of five-on-three disadvantages in the opening 10
minutes.

The Canucks used the extended power plays to outshoot Dallas
10-1 midway through the opening period, but Ed Belfour kept the
Stars in it with a handful of great early saves.

"This was Eddie's best game in a month," Stars coach Ken
Hitchcock said. "He was outstanding today. Pucks were just getting
smothered in and around him.

Linden eventually cashed in a power-play rebound at 8:20 of the
first to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead, but it didn't last long.

Matvichuk tied it 1:27 into the second with a tricky slap shot
from the blue line that found its way through a crowd and into the
top corner behind Cloutier.

Modano, who extended his points streak to four games
with an assist on Matvichuk's goal, gave Dallas a 2-1 lead at 15:04
when he took a pass in the high slot and beat Cloutier with a
strong forehand move.

"Killing off those penalties and scoring one ourselves was key
because it took the crowd out of it and took the wind out of their
sails," Modano said.

Jovanovski tied it on a short-handed rush 2:58 into the third.
Belfour stopped Matt Cooke's wrist shot on a three-on-two break, but the
rebound bounced in off Jovanovski's leg as he crashed the net.

Rucinsky made it 3-2 less than four minutes later with
Jovanovski in the penalty box for tripping.

Langenbrunner rounded out the scoring with a short-handed
breakaway at 10:20 of the third period to help the Stars wrap up a
three-games-in-four-nights road trip through western Canada with a
3-0 record.

"We've gotten better and better as this road trip went on,"
Hitchcock said. "To play the way we did in the second period and
third period after playing back-to-back games, especially with the
really different and difficult calls in the first, was
outstanding."

Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov left with a shoulder injury and
did not return. He will be re-evaluated when the team returns to
Dallas on Monday, but Hitchcock said the injury wasn't serious.

Game notes
Belfour was credited with his fourth assist of the year on
Langenbrunner's goal, giving him the Stars team record for most
goaltender assists in a season. ... The Stars have earned at least
one point in an NHL-best 65 consecutive games when they lead after two
periods. Dallas is 58-0-4-3 dating to the 1999-2000 season. ...
Dallas' Kirk Muller extended his point streak to six games (two
goals, four assists) with an assist on Modano's goal. ... Vancouver
center Harold Druken didn't play after spraining his right ankle during
the 5-2 defeat Friday against Colorado and could be out another two weeks. ... Dallas left wing Brendan Morrow missed his first game of the season
after spraining his right knee during the 6-4 victory Saturday over
Edmonton, but forward Pat Verbeek returned to the Stars lineup
after missing the same game with a bruised knee.