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Benn leads Stars past Hurricanes

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- If Jamie Benn was feeling fatigued after helping Canada win gold at the Sochi Olympics and making the long trip back to Texas, he didn't show it Thursday night.

Benn scored a shorthanded goal and had two assists to lead the Dallas Stars to a 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes night at American Airlines Center.

It was Benn's first game since helping Canada win the gold medal by beating Sweden on Sunday. He helped the Stars get off to a fast start by assisting on two goals in the first 6:13 as Dallas (28-21-10) regained the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

"I thought our team played great," Benn said. "We came out in the first and I thought we took it to them. We got the first goal and we kept rolling from there."

The Stars found the back of the net on their first two shots. Tyler Seguin beat Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin to the short side with a one-timer from the left circle 3:18 into the game after a backhand cross-ice pass from Valeri Nichushkin.

"I thought [Nichushkin] skated really well, and he had a nice set-up on the first goal," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Dallas doubled the lead at 6:13 when Brenden Dillon scored his sixth of the season, firing with a wrister from the high slot over Khudobin's glove for a shorthanded goal. Carolina was on the power play after Cody Eakin was called for delay of game at 4:57 for shooting the puck over the boards.

"Anytime Jamie Benn is going up the ice, you've got to expect a goal," Dillon said.

Carolina coach Kirk Muller was less than pleased with his team's slow start.

"You know we weren't happy with our first period tonight," he said. "When you give a team like that the opportunity and advantage, it's hard to come back and for whatever reason we didn't have enough guys ready to go to start this game and we just chased things after that."

Carolina center Elias Lindholm, who returned after being a healthy scratch Tuesday night in Buffalo, agreed with his coach that he and his teammates weren't ready to play.

"I don't think we were ready to go from the beginning. In the third, we started playing a little bit better, but it was too late," Lindholm said.

The Hurricanes lost forward Alexander Semin for the rest of the game after he sustained a lower-body injury during his first shift of the second period. Semin will be evaluated on Friday.

Muller said losing one of his team's hottest scorers made chasing the game even harder.

"It's tough because he's been our hottest forward in the last 15-20 games," Muller said. "He's a big part of this team and we miss that firepower from him."

Benn gave Dallas a three-goal lead by scoring a shorthanded goal with 1:25 left in second period. The Stars' captain gained possession deep in his own end after Carolina's Nathan Gerbe fanned on an attempted pass. He raced up the middle of the ice and split defensemen Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk before firing a wrister under an outstretched Khudobin near the far post for his 23rd goal of the season.

"On the whole I thought we skated well. We executed for the most part," Ruff said. "I'd give our team an A-plus tonight, for their skating, their compete level and being able to get down in the trenches."

The Stars scored two shorthanded goals in a game for the first time since an 8-2 win over the San Jose Sharks in Dallas on March 16, 2010.

"We really very seldom get scored on the power play. It's a couple of mistakes early on that cost us," Muller said. "We gave them those first couple of goals and like I said you've got to fight back after that."

Carolina got on the board 2:42 into the final period when Eric Staal fired a wrister from along the goal line to the right of Lehtonen that deflected off his left pad and into the net for Staal's 16th of the season. It was the only Carolina shot to beat Lehtonen, who finished with 29 saves.

"I was thinking what kind of passing options he had from the corner," Lehtonen said. "I think he sensed that. I was looking up the ice."

Eakin hit the empty net with 56 seconds remaining.

Dallas' Antoine Roussel earned a charging major and a game misconduct at 5:36 of the third period after going hard into Khudobin. Carolina's Ron Hainsey earned an instigating minor, a fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct after dropping the gloves with Roussel.

Khudobin made 30 saves for the Hurricanes (26-24-9), who have lost the first two games of a five-game trip that continues against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the same day Dallas hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"He's an elite goalie," Muller said of Khudobin. "He's doing the job every night. He gave us the chance again to stay in this game. He made some huge saves."

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