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Benn's pair leads Stars past Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER – Like the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn was starved for goals in the first nine games of the season. The Stars were averaging a mere 1.8 goals per game and Benn had yet to find the back of the net.

That changed Monday night at the Pepsi Center, where Benn scored twice to lead the Stars to a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche, who suffered their first loss in four home games.

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan shuffled the line combinations, and Benn's unit with Brenden Morrow and Jaromir Jagr clicked for all three goals and two assists.

"I think we had a little bit of everything on every line," Benn said. "We can roll four and keep attacking and play a simple game. I felt pretty good. Our line controlled the play a bit more and held onto the puck. I tried to take over the game. The more consistent we can be at that, the better we'll be."

Benn, who assisted on Morrow's first-period goal, has accounted for four goals and seven assists in 13 career games against the Avalanche.

"I'm not sure why," he said. "We just wanted to keep the game simple and roll four lines and keep going after them and don't sit back. We just want to keep building and be as consistent as possible."

The Stars squandered an early 2-0 lead, but went ahead 3-2 at 15:29 of the second period on Benn's second goal and third point of the game during a lengthy delayed penalty. Derek Roy, who missed the previous five games because of a groin injury, passed to Benn at the top of the slot for an open shot that whistled past goalie Semyon Varlamov to the stick side.

"I was just trying to find an open spot there," Benn said. "I was just trying to get a pretty good shot off. Fortunately, it went in."

The Avalanche had tied the game at 11:33 of the period on a power-play goal by PA Parenteau. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen made a save on Paul Stastny's shot from the right side, but Parenteau batted the rebound out of the air and into the net from the opposite side.

The Avalanche had a chance to tie the game early in the third period when Jagr was penalized for shooting the puck over the glass, but they failed to register a shot on goal during the ensuing power play. Colorado has gone 3-for-32 with the man advantage this season.

"I feel we got some pretty good looks on the power play, but the pucks are not going in like we'd like to," said Milan Hejduk, who was honored during an on-ice ceremony before playing in his 1,000th NHL game and scored a first-period goal. "(The loss) leaves me with a little sour taste. We were pushing, but not good enough."

Benn collected his first goal at 2:21 of the first period when he scored on a clean breakaway after stripping the puck from Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick.

Morrow made it 2-0 at 11:18 after Benn poked the puck through the legs of Avalanche center Matt Duchene on a faceoff in the right circle. Jagr gained possession and fed Morrow in front.

The Stars had a golden opportunity starting at 13:21 to seize control with a five-on-three power play that lasted the full two minutes with Colorado's Patrick Bordeleau (charging) and Hunwick (roughing) in the penalty box. But the Avalanche killed it off with Varlamov making four saves.

Then Hejduk, the first player to wear an Avalanche uniform for all 1,000 games of his career, scored his first goal of the year at 18:12 by knocking in the rebound of John Mitchell's shot.

"I thought maybe it was going to be a little turning point," Hejduk said. "I scored one and then PA got another one. It was a tied game for a while, but not for long."

Lehtonen ensured the one-goal lead would hold up, finishing with 29 saves for his seventh win in 11 career decisions against the Avalanche.

"It was a good start for us after waiting around for that (Hejduk) ceremony," Lehtonen said. "It was great to get those two (early) goals and we went from there. We had a really good third period. I was expecting a lot more action in the third, but it was pretty easy."

The Avalanche hurt any attempt for a comeback by taking consecutive penalties late in the period; Greg Zanon went off for holding and Ryan O'Byrne was penalized when he cleared the puck over the glass with nine seconds left on Zanon's infraction.

"We took some bad penalties at the end and they were rightfully called," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "You can't take that penalty late in the game to make it 5-on-4 and then one to put us two (men) down again. That's almost four minutes of killing penalties at a crucial time of the game."

Referee Chris Rooney fell to the ice and was down for several minutes after he was struck in the head with a deflected puck at 3:18 of the first period. Rooney eventually was able to get to his feet and was helped off the ice for medical treatment but didn't return, leaving Justin St. Pierre as the lone referee.

Rooney was hit after Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak launched a shot from the blue line that caromed off Stastny's skate. There was no word on Rooney's condition after the game.

"We have to give a lot of credit to the one ref out there tonight," Benn said. "He called a pretty good game."

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