As far as final games of the season between two non-playoff teams go, this one was relatively entertaining! I'll follow Brandon's example from the game preview and look past the biggest story of the game for a moment because on it's own this game had plenty of drama. Wild take a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals from the Wild's number nine Mikko Koivu in the first and for a while it looked like this was going to end badly for Dallas. But credit the Stars for fighting back from that two goal hole in the second period and then credit them again for yet another fight back in the third period to force the game into overtime then a shootout after the Wild took a 3-2 lead merely nine seconds (there is that number again) into the final frame.
Steve Ott was huge again and had two goals to get to 22 on the season for him. Philip Larson picked up his first NHL point on an assist on the third Stars goal. Brenden Morrow scored his 20th of the season joining five other Dallas Stars (Richards, Eriksson, Ott, Neal and Benn) on the season's 20 goal club. No points for Brad Richards so he doesn't break his personal best and franchise record for points in a season, but 91 points is a nice solid number for him to land on isn't it? And Kari Lehtonen was very good stopping 24 of 27 shots on him.
All of this is great, but it's obviously not what we'll remember about tonight really.
More thoughts on the man of the hour (you know who I am talking about), if this truly was the end for him and our final 3 and 38th stars after the jump...
Tonight of course was about Mike Modano - as have last five games have been for Stars fans really, but for tonight it wasn't just Stars fans that had Modano first and foremost on their mind. Minnesota Wild fans who were North Stars fans before they were Wild fans also got to share in the final farewell as they saluted the North Stars #1 pick overall from the 1988 entry draft during a break in play in the first period, and then at the end of the game got their own unique moment that could have only happened in Minnesota as #9 skated the ice one final time as the game's first star in a white North Stars jersey and saluting the NHL fans who loved him first before Norm Green packed him and his team south.
For the last few weeks since it became obvious that Mike was pushing hard from injury to get back on the ice, I've wondered to myself just how good can this ending be for Mike if this is indeed the end for him. (Something I'll touch on in a moment) Yes he'd get his kudos and big goodbye in both cities but what moment would stand out more? Where would the more memorable and longest lasting images of his final games as a professional hockey player come from and would either set of fans be it Dallas or Minnesota feel any resentment if one game was much better than the other?
Turns out that was something I didn't have to worry about. Both sides got lasting and enduring memories in unique ways. Dallas fans got to see the flashes of brilliance on ice; the beautiful pass for an assist, the game tying goal, the heart stopping breakaway in overtime and the shootout winner. Minnesota fans didn't get the points or late game heroics but they did get the pleasure of seeing it end where it began fittingly in the uniform he first wore as a fresh faced kid in the 1989 playoffs.
Is this the end of his career? Of course no one knows for sure - Mike himself included, but tonight did have a heavy feeling of finality to it as Mike took a few laps around the ice.
I gotta admit even as they dropped the puck to start this game, I wasn't ready to see him go anywhere. I've been in heavy denial mode this entire week that this is the last we'll all see of Mike Modano on the ice as an NHL player. I had this great post ready for this blog tomorrow that was going to outline how this shouldn't be the end and how Modano can't possibly let his career end this way... Partly because I'm selfish and I just don't want this to end period. (Partly? Well ok, mostly...)
Gordie Howe played hockey into his 50's... Chris Chelios is still playing and he's 114 years old or something like that... What's the big deal about playing into your mid-40's? It's not like Mike has lost his ability to skate, or shoot, or have that jersey flapping behind him like no other player in the world currently can.
Yup, I couldn't see how this could possibly end... Until now. As soon as I saw him skate with that North Stars jersey on, I knew that if Mike does end it this way, it's the perfect way to end a career that doesn't involve hoisting a Stanley Cup. It's an end that would be so unique in all of sports to one man alone. Joe Sakic didn't get a chance to play a final game in Denver and then in Quebec City. Shane Doan most likely won't end his career with a game in Phoenix then in Winnipeg.
And imagine if he comes back for one more year... What happens if the Stars make the playoffs then exit in an early round? Ya know, kinda like what happened to Steve Yzerman? Steve played his last game in Rexall Place in Edmonton in 2006 and I promise you 90% of the fans in that building didn't realize they had saw Yzerman's last game ever and skating off the ice with head hung low in defeat until well after the euphoria of an Oilers series win had worn off after a few hours.
Do I really want that for Mike Modano? Of course not...
If this is the end of his career - and whatever Mike does decide to do this summer I will be completely ok with as I am sure many of you will be as well - this was a perfect way to cap it off, and for all the issues, trials and tribulations that the Dallas Stars have had this year, it at least leaves us with some much needed warm fuzzies to carry us through the next few cold Stars-less playoff months.
Your Defending Big D 3 and 38th stars
1st Star: Mike Modano (DAL) - Of course.
2nd Star: Steve Ott (DAL) - 2 goals and made sure this night ended well.
3rd Star: Niklas Backstrom (MIN) - Made one less save than Kari in the game and in the shootout, but really his work made sure that this game did go to overtime.
38th Star: Not going to pick one because tonight was too good a night overall to throw anyone in a doghouse.