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game recap

Stars top Predators, stay on top in Central

Jamie Benn scores twice; Nashville misses chance to clinch spot in playoffs

by Steve Hunt / Correspondent

Ja. Benn's breakaway goal

NSH@DAL: Ja. Benn nets breakaway chance to tie game

3/29/16: Alex Goligoski finds Jamie Benn behind the defense for a breakaway and he finishes five-hole to tie the game at 1 in the 1st

  • 00:51 •

DALLAS -- Jamie Benn scored two goals and the Dallas Stars remained in first place in the Central Division by defeating the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Tuesday at American Airlines Center.

Radek Faksa, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp also scored for Dallas (46-22-9), which has won five of its past six games. The Stars and St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 earlier Tuesday, each have 101 points; however, the Stars own the tiebreaker with 44 regulation/overtime wins, three more than St. Louis. Each team has five games remaining.

Dallas reached 100 points for the first time since 2006-07, when the Stars finished with 107.

"It's a good accomplishment," defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had two assists, said of reaching 100 points. "Not a lot of teams hit that, so we should feel good about that. The team's worked hard all year."

Video: NSH@DAL: Ja. Benn nets his second of game to seal win

Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson scored for Nashville (39-25-13), which holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference but failed to clinch a spot in the postseason for the second straight night.

"[We hit] four posts in the third period, it was tough. There's some things we could have done better defensively, but [it was] certainly not an effort thing. The guys played hard," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

Spezza made it 3-1 with 30th goal of the season at 11:49 of the second period, 46 seconds after Faksa broke a 1-1 tie. Spezza beat Pekka Rinne, who made 20 saves, high to the far post with a wrist shot from the right circle. The goal came seconds after Nashville's Mike Fisher's wrist shot on a breakaway hit the top part of Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen's stick.

"[Valeri Nichushkin] had a pretty good gap. I probably could have slid it over early. I didn't, and [Nichushkin] did a good job of driving the back post and if a guy drives the back post, some of the times you can catch the goalie leaning, and I made a good shot," Spezza said of his goal.

Video: NSH@DAL: Johns sends Neal into bench with big check

Spezza reached the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career and the first since 2011-12, when he played for the Ottawa Senators. The Stars have three 30-goal scorers (Benn, Tyler Seguin and Spezza) for the first time since relocating to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993.

Arvidsson scored a power-play goal at 14:41 to make it 3-2, but Lehtonen made 12 of his 28 saves in the third period before Sharp and Benn hit the empty net in the final two minutes.

"I thought Kari was excellent," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He made some real good saves for us. He made a big save [on Fisher] off one of our turnovers that turned into a goal going the other way, which for me was one of the turning points of the game."

Benn has a career-high 39 goals, tying him for second in the League with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

Video: NSH@DAL: Spezza beats Rinne with a beautiful wrister

Ellis gave Nashville a 1-0 lead 6:12 into the game with a shorthanded goal off a Dallas turnover. He intercepted a pass by defenseman John Klingberg in the neutral zone, raced in and beat Lehtonen top shelf to the short side with a slap shot from the right circle.

"I thought we started the game off sloppy, and got better as the game went on. It was tough gaining on the ice tonight. Both teams defended pretty well," Ruff said.

Benn tied it at 10:55 when he beat Rinne through the five-hole on a breakaway after taking a pass from Goligoski.

"I think they kind of bounced the puck around in the slot, and their D got caught puck-watching a little bit," Goligoski said. "I saw him hanging out up there. It was a good read by him to hop off the bench and get up there. Easy play on my part, great goal by him."

Faksa scored off a rebound at 11:03 of the second after Rinne stopped Antoine Roussel's shot.

"I'm getting more chances and I appreciate every shift, every minute because we've got a very good team," Faksa said.

Video: NSH@DAL: Sharp scores empty-netter from his own zone

Arvidsson's power-play goal came on a slap shot from the left circle that went inside the near post. It was his first goal in 14 games, since Feb. 25 at Chicago.

Ellis left after playing one shift in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Laviolette said there are no immediate plans to recall a defenseman.

"We had six here tonight and they were going to play and we knew we were healthy," Laviolette said. "We'll assess everything tomorrow."

After a day off on Wednesday, Nashville gets another chance to make the postseason Thursday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We've had two games here where we had a chance to clinch a playoff spot and couldn't do it," Rinne said, "so we just have to go to Pittsburgh and hopefully get it done over there."

Video: Benn, Spezza lead Stars past Predators, 5-2

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