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Modano has a goal and an assist in Stars' win

1/3/2003

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Midway through their resurgent season,
the Dallas Stars are back on top and climbing fast.

Mike Modano had a goal and an assist, and Marty Turco made 23
saves as the Stars emphasized their return to dominance in the
Pacific Division with a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on
Thursday night.

With timely offense and another stifling defensive game, Dallas
reached the midway point with a 13-point division lead -- easily the
NHL's largest. The Stars are tied with Detroit atop the Western
Conference and are one point behind Ottawa for the overall NHL
lead.

It's a lofty spot for a team that plunged from grace last
spring, missing the playoffs and surrendering the division title
they held for three seasons. But as it showed in a convincing win
over the Sharks, who claimed the division last season, Dallas is
back -- and may be even better.

"That was a strong point of emphasis from our coaches: It was
important to get a road win against these guys,'' said Turco, who
won for the 16th time in 21 games. "They're starting to play
better than they were before, but we want to keep that gap as big
as possible and keep growing it.''

Philippe Boucher scored a short-handed goal on a spectacular
pass from Modano, and Jason Arnott got a power-play goal as the
Stars won their first meeting of the season with the Sharks and
remained unbeaten in four straight.

Darryl Sydor had two assists as the Stars took a two-goal lead
and sat on it with strong defense and Turco's big saves. Dallas had
a distinct defense-first identity under coach Ken Hitchcock, but
the revamped Stars excel in many areas while often showing more
offensive life.

"We wanted to come in and play a solid road game,'' said coach
Dave Tippett, whose team won for just the second time in seven road
games. "We were able to get a lead, and that worked in our favor,
and then we closed it up. ... We only worry about ourselves. We'll
keep continuing to rack up points and let things play out from
there.''

Mike Rathje scored for the Sharks, but their five-game unbeaten
streak at home ended in terrible special teams play and a flurry of
outstanding saves by Turco, who has become a star in his first
season as Dallas' No. 1 goalie following Ed Belfour's departure for Toronto.

Turco outplayed San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, who made 20 saves
while appearing for the 22nd time in 23 games.

"I think we played quite well 5-on-5, but there are a lot of
situations that they dominate,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.
"Pucks found a way of getting in by Nabby. The power play is what
disappointed me most. We played right into their hands.''

Boucher scored the opening goal late in the first period when
Modano stole the puck while forechecking. The U.S. Olympic team
star flung a behind-the-back, cross-ice pass to Boucher for a short
shot.

"It was a great play by Mo,'' Boucher said. "He was deep in
the corner, and I don't know how he saw me, but great players will
get the puck to you in situations like that.''

Arnott tipped home Sydor's shot midway through the second period
for a 2-0 lead, but Rathje spoiled Turco's bid for his sixth
shutout early in the third.

Rathje's long wrist shot deflected off Derian Hatcher's leg past
Turco for Rathje's sixth goal of the season -- already a career best
for the huge defenseman who has markedly improved his offensive
game this season.

"It's a good year for points for me, but losing ruins the good
part of it,'' Rathje said. "We're a little too passive. When we've
had success, we force things. We're not battling enough to get the
puck back.''

The Stars reclaimed the two-goal lead by victimizing San Jose's
league-worst penalty killers for another goal moments after
Rathje's score. Nabokov allowed a long rebound on Sydor's shot that
went straight to Modano, who easily scored his 15th goal of the
season.

The Sharks have allowed 10 power-play goals in their last seven
games. San Jose is just 2-3-2 during that stretch -- and its own
power-play slump extended to 0-for-21 with four scoreless tries
against Dallas.

Game notes
The Sharks are midway through an eight-game homestand. ...
Dallas played the first of a three-game California road trip, which
includes weekend games at Los Angeles and Anaheim. ... In the
opening minute, Patrick Marleau got a rare diving penalty after
Hatcher hooked him. ... The Sharks wore their black third jerseys.
... Rob DiMaio played his 100th game with the Stars.