Series (Game 1 of 5)

Dallas leads 5-0

Game 1: Thursday, January 2nd
Game 2: Saturday, January 18th
Game 3: Sunday, February 16th
Game 4: Sunday, March 9th
Game 5: Saturday, March 29th

Stars 3

(21-10-1, 52 pts)

Sharks 1

(15-16-3, 37 pts)

10:30 PM ET, January 2, 2003

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
DAL 1 1 13
SJ 0 0 11

M. Modano (Stars - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

P. Boucher (Stars - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

D. Sydor (Stars - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Modano has a goal and an assist in Stars' win

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

Mike Modano

Marty Turco

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press