DALLAS - APRIL 02: (L-R) Jamie Benn #14, Matt Niskanen #5, Mike Modano #9 and Toby Petersen #17 of the Dallas Stars celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A 20 year NHL veteran returning to the ice after missing nine games due to injury and promptly getting his 800th and 801st assists on a rookie's 20th and 21st goals of the season both scored in the third period. Even if the Stars had lost on this night, that storyline alone would have been enough to make me happy, but thankfully the Stars went one step farther and capped off the night with a 6-3 win over the bottom feeding Edmonton Oilers.
Take away the rather lame second period by the Stars and what you had tonight was pretty much what we had in San Jose the night before... A team that took advantage of turnovers, some questionable goaltending and was relentless on the forecheck while still maintaining solid defense in their own end to snap up a win.
But this night - and really every night from here on out until the end of the season - should be about Mike Modano who after his 800th assist looked visibly choked up as fans cheered a video tribute that played during the next break in play.
If the Stars don't have the playoffs to play for then at the very least they should be playing these last five games of the season as hard as possible to send Mike out as a winner.
More thoughts on the game, on Mo and your 3 and 38th stars after the jump...
No one really knows if this is Modano's last days as a professional hockey player - I don't think Mike himself really truly knows and if he does actually know then I suggest a post-hockey career playing poker because he has one heck of a bluff going on - but the signs are pointing to a possible final NHL game in Minnesota. That all said I'm ok with the idea of Mike going out with maybe less league wide fanfare than say a Mats Sundin or Joe Sakic, but what I wasn't ok with was the idea of the Stars rolling over and playing out the last string of games with little to no effort or care simply because the playoffs are out of reach. Modano deserves better than that and he deserves to play with better linemates than he's had at times this season which is why I loved seeing him with Jere Lehtinen (who is getting a bit overshadowed in this whole retirement talk of Modano's, which is a shame because a three time Selke winner who has stayed with one team his entire career also deserves a bit better) and Jamie Benn tonight. That entire line was great and if kept together should provide some relief and take some of the opposing attention away from the Richards / Neal / Erikkson line - which as well had a pretty solid game themselves.
The Stars defense? It was so-so... It's actually frustrating to watch them right now as a unit because in the second period though they allowed the Oilers to climb back into the game after being down 3-0 by putting up little to no resistance in letting the Oilers make passes and crash Kari Lehtonen's crease. Outside of that period though they were great as they kept shots to the perimeter, cleared out rebounds and second chances neatly, moved the puck up ice well and they were led by Trevor Daley who had a couple of very solid rushes up ice in the third to help out offensively.
Speaking of Kari, his audition for the role of Stars starting goalie in 2010-11 is continuing to go very well. Looked a bit shaky as well in the second along with the rest of the team, but he locked the gate in the third. Can't ask for anything more than that.
So now here we sit again as the Stars have now won two in a row... They play again tomorrow night in St. Louis. and as I type this it's a final in Denver as the Flames beat the Avalanche 2-1 - so as amazing as it seems, the Stars are still in a playoff race and with neither Calgary or Colorado playing tomorrow, the Stars playoff survival (if you can call it that) is dependent on something they haven't done in forever - or at least not this season anyway - and that's win three games in a row.
And if the Stars don't feel like winning three in a row for a last playoff gasp, at the very least they can do it for Mike who deserves to go out a winner if in fact he's going out at the end of this season.
Your Defending Big D 3 and 38th stars...
1st Star: Jamie Benn (DAL) - What a great game by the kid tonight as he hits the 20 goal mark. Remember when that was a huge deal in the NHL? Did I just date myself a bit?
3rd Star: Jere Lehtinen (DAL) - Very typical for his career really... Others get bigger kudos and more attention, Jere just keeps playing along and quietly being great.
38th Star: Andrew Cogliano (EDM) - As a bit of an Oilers fan (hey, I am from Edmonton after all...) I so wanted this to be Ethan Moreau just like most nights on a Stars loss I want this spot to go to Kris Barch... But at least Moreau defied some sort of massive odds against him and scored a goal. I didn't even notice Cogliano on the ice except for when he lost face offs.