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Benn, Spezza lead Stars past Canadiens

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Jamie Benn's teammates struggle sometimes to accurately describe how much he means to the Dallas Stars. But after a three-point performance in a 6-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens at American Airlines Center on Saturday, they found plenty of things to say about their captain.

"He obviously is one of the best players in the world. He plays physical, he does everything. When your captain's going like that, it definitely lifts your bench up," Stars forward Vernon Fiddler said.

Benn (two goals, one assist) leads the NHL with 22 goals, one more than St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

Jason Spezza matched Benn with three points for Dallas (24-7-2), who also got goals from Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves. The Stars finished their three-game homestand 2-1-0.

Montreal (20-11-3) got goals from Daniel Carr and Paul Byron. Mike Condon made 17 saves and was pulled after Eaves' goal at 4:27 of the third period. The Canadiens have lost three straight and seven of their past eight games.

"It's a joke," Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said. "Eight penalties against a team like that, it's embarrassing."

Dallas led 1-0 after one period but scored three goals in the second on goals from Benn, Sharp and Seguin.

Spezza gave Dallas an early lead when he beat Condon top-shelf with a wrist shot from the right circle off the rush 1:34 into the first period. Spezza faked a slap shot at the top edge of the circle before connecting for his 12th goal of the season.

"That sets the tone, when you can get that early goal," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought Jason (Spezza) scored one heck of a goal. We knew that Condon was the type of goalie that challenges a little bit. I thought he sold him on the shot, and just that quick move had him out a little bit, and he one-step passed it and found the top corner."

Montreal had two close calls late in the first period while on the power play. With 1:23 remaining, Andrei Markov hit the crossbar with a wrist shot from the left circle. Twelve seconds later, Dale Weise sent an attempted tap-in off the near post.

"We got a good start. I thought the first period, we were playing some solid hockey. We hit some posts, but the story of the game is I thought couple of the defensemen really had a hard time tonight," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "They turned pucks over, (made) bad decisions with the puck."

Benn put Dallas ahead 2-0 with an unassisted goal 1:24 into the second period. After Condon turned away a wrist shot from Seguin, defenseman Jeff Petry attempted to clear the puck but sent it right to Benn, who scored from the slot with a wrist shot.

"He's pretty good at hockey," Spezza said of Benn. "There's no doubt about it, he's our leader. He's got a great temperature for the room, and he has skills to back it up. He can take over games at certain times. He's grown even since I've gotten here as a leader. He's got all the traits of a great leader."

Sharp gave the Stars a three-goal lead at 3:06 of the second period when he redirected a wrist shot by Seguin from the edge of the left circle into the top left corner for a power-play goal.

Montreal cut it to 3-1 at 11:35 of the second when Carr scored a power-play goal. Niemi denied the initial shot by Tomas Fleischmann, but Carr collected the carom, skated around Niemi and scored with a wrist shot that deflected in off the back of Niemi's right pad.

Dallas had an apparent goal by Mattias Janmark off a rebound nullified at 13:21 of the second; Jason Demers was called for goaltender interference after Condon was upended on the play.

Seguin restored the Stars' three-goal cushion with 6:09 remaining in the second when he beat Condon with a wrist shot from the slot. Five seconds before the Seguin goal, Benn leveled Petry with a huge hit that energized not only the sellout crowd, but his teammates too.

Petry sustained an upper-body injury on the hit and did not return.

"We're not playing with confidence for sure. It's got to start with those little details, with the hard work. It's hard, it's not fun, but we have to turn it around," Condon said.

Benn's second goal of the game came 31 seconds into the third period when Spezza's wrist shot from the right circle deflected off Sharp's right skate and fell to Benn, who tapped the puck in at the far post with Dallas on a 5-on-3 power play.

Byron scored a shorthanded goal at 4:12 of the third with a wrist shot that traveled through Niemi's five-hole.

Eaves answered with a power-play goal 15 seconds later, knocking in a Fiddler pass from behind the net for his second goal of the season at 4:27 of the third.

Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski made five saves in relief.

Montreal continues its eight-game road trip at the Nashville Predators on Monday.

"We started the year with nine wins in a row. I don't know why we don't have confidence," Pacioretty said. "I don't know why we forgot how to play the game, but we have to find answers really quick."

Along with the Washington Capitals, the Stars are one of two teams that has yet to lose consecutive games. Dallas visits the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

"Once again, we're focusing on good starts. (Spezza) got a pretty nice goal early to fire us up and win the crowd," Benn said. "We found a way to score a few in the second, and power-play goals, and we made some big saves."

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