Stars 4, Wild 3, SO

Of the 1,459 games in Mike Modano’s NHL career, this wasn’t one

of his best.

That much didn’t matter. The Minnesota crowd welcomed him back

and sent him off the ice, possibly, for the final time.

Jamie Benn scored in the shootout after Modano’s wrist shot was

denied, giving the Dallas Stars a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota

Wild on Saturday night to wrap up the regular season – and perhaps

Modano’s career.

Modano even donned his old North Stars jersey after the game and

skated around the ice to more claps and cheers, receiving “First

Star” of the game honors despite not scoring or doing much of

anything else.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Modano said. “The reception

was phenomenal.”

He played the first four of his 20 seasons in Minnesota for the

North Stars before the franchise moved south, and the fans here

never forgot. He didn’t, either.

“Sometimes I wish I was in my prime playing here,” Modano

said.

Modano finished the season with 14 goals and 16 assists in 59

games. In this one, he missed the net on two shots and had another

stopped. He lost 11 of 17 faceoffs and looked a little tired down

the stretch.

“But then there’s games like the other night in Dallas where

you think maybe there is still some hope left,” said Modano, who

has not declared his intention of playing or not next season.

Modano was overcome by emotion during an extended ovation at

home two nights earlier, giving Stars fans quite a show with a goal

and an assist in regulation plus a score in the shootout.

This time, he drew a standing ovation when a video of highlights

from his days with the North Stars was shown during a first-period

break. There were a few North Stars jerseys in the crowd, too,

among the fans wearing Wild stuff. The 39-year-old forward’s face

quivered during the cheers.

“He’s still got the skills and talent. It’s just a matter of if

his head’s in it or not,” said teammate Brenden Morrow, who had a

power-play goal.

Steve Ott scored twice for the Stars, tying the game at 3 early

in the third period. Mikko Koivu scored twice and rookie Casey

Wellman got his first career goal for the Wild.

The other No. 9, Koivu, tried to steal the show by scoring twice

from the near edge of the right circle in the opening frame, the

first during a two-man advantage for the Wild. The Stars were the

only NHL team that hadn’t allowed a 5-on-3 goal this season.

The Stars missed the playoffs for the second straight season,

which hasn’t happened since 1987 and 1988 when the franchise was in

Minnesota. Modano was drafted with the first overall selection

right after that, and away he went.

Coach Marc Crawford’s attempt with his players to “recapture

some greatness,” as he put it before the season, didn’t

materialize. Loui Eriksson and Benn were bright spots, but the

Stars were the epitome of mediocrity, failing to post a winning

streak longer than two games.

Modano isn’t the only high-profile player uncertain to return

next season, as the Stars sort out their ownership situation.

Goalie Marty Turco, who yielded to Kari Lehtonen for this game, is

also playing on an expiring contract and might not be

re-signed.

“You always want to get the last win,” Lehtonen said. “It

makes everything feel a little bit better.”

Niklas Backstrom was back in the net for Minnesota after leaving

the last game early, when a slap shot struck him in the neck.

Regulars Owen Nolan, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat, Andrew Ebbett,

Guillaume Latendresse and James Sheppard were all scratched.

The Wild had a disappointing season, too, the first year for

general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Todd Richards. The team

was beset by injuries, but also inconsistency, and the final few

weeks featured extended ice time for several young players

including Nate Prosser, the eighth native Minnesotan to suit up for

the Wild.

Wellman, signed last month straight from the University of

Massachusetts, scored 9 seconds into the third period, drawing a

loud roar from the crowd.

“These guys played a long, grueling season but I’m just getting

started,” Wellman said. “I’m sure I’ll be ready next year,

too.”

NOTES: This was Koivu’s eighth NHL two-goal game. He set a

career high with 22 goals this season. … Ott finished with six

goals in his last six games to reach 22 for the season, a career

high. … The Wild called this the sixth largest regular-season

crowd, 19,109, in their history.