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Benn scores 40th, Stars defeat Coyotes

Niemi makes 31 saves, Dallas moves into first place in West

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- Jamie Benn scored his 40th goal, and Antti Niemi made 31 saves to help the Dallas Stars to a 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

"It means I've got good linemates and good teammates," Benn said. "They're setting me up 40 times, I guess."

The Dallas captain scored at 10:43 of the second period with a wrist shot from the right circle that got through goalie Mike Smith, who made 29 saves.

Benn, who had an assist, is second in the NHL in goals behind the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (44) and is the first 40-goal scorer for the Stars since Mike Modano had 50 in 1993-94, their first season in Dallas after relocating from Minnesota.

Video: ARI@DAL: Ja. Benn ties the game with his 40th goal

"It's a tough mark to get to in today's game," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's not many players going to get there, so it's pretty special and it's a heck of a year so far for him."

The Stars (47-22-9) have 103 points, two more than the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference. St. Louis, which has five games remaining, hosts the Boston Bruins on Friday; Dallas, which has four left, plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon.

Patrick Eaves, Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp scored for the Stars, who have won three games in a row and six of their past seven. Ales Hemsky, who has 13 points in the past 12 games, had two assists.

"I feel pretty confident," Hemsky said. "[I] changed my game a little bit; a little more patient, focused on defense a lot, and then [I] just wait for opportunities."

Video: ARI@DAL: Eaves scores near side to tie the game

Martin Hanzal scored for Arizona (34-36-7), which was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

"Well, it's mathematically [official that we're eliminated], but it's something that's been hovering around us for a while, so it's not as if it's a shock," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's unfortunate. We came into this season with our goal of making the playoffs. We knew we were going to be a very young team, and it was going to be an uphill battle, but we said at the start of the year this team has to grow this year. From where we were last year, we've got growth started, so we're moving in the right direction."

The Coyotes played without defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who did not take warmups and was a late scratch due to illness.

Hanzal gave Arizona an early lead when he scored on a tap-in from the slot with 2:53 remaining in the first period. He sustained an upper-body injury later in the period and did not return.

"I think [Hanzal] is such a big part of our team, and you see how good he is defensively and offensively. When a guy goes down like that, it's going to hurt your team," Coyotes forward Max Domi said. "[Kyle Chipchura] came and played with [me and Anthony Duclair] and he was great. We just couldn't get the puck to him enough, and that happens, but you don't like seeing your guys go down like that."

Video: ARI@DAL: Faksa nets goal 11 seconds into the 2nd

Tippett said that Hanzal has the same illness as Ekman-Larsson and each will be re-evaluated Friday.

Eaves scored 58 seconds after Hanzal, sending a wrist shot from the right circle through Smith's five-hole to tie it 1-1. It was his his 10th goal.

Faksa gave Dallas its first lead 11 seconds into the second period, knocking in a pass from Hemsky after Antoine Roussel whiffed on it. It was his fourth goal.

"[Roussel, Faksa and Hemsky] just seem to play well together," Ruff said. "You've got both wings, you've got guys that are really skating well. You've got a guy in the middle that's playing physical and making plays. They've really come together as a line."

Sharp scored into an empty net with Dallas on the power play with 1:11 remaining. It was his 20th goal.

"[The empty-net goal] is important so you can put a team away," Ruff said. "It doesn't allow the other team to get set up, it doesn't allow the other team to get back in the game."

Video: ARI@DAL: Sharp seals the Stars' win with empty-netter

Coyotes forward Eric Selleck and defenseman Alex Grant each made his NHL debut. Tippett was impressed by the effort he saw from the two rookies.

"You hope for young players like that, or players getting a chance coming in, there's got to be lots of try in their game," Tippett said. "Whenever they get their minutes, they got to try to impress. Both guys came out, worked awful hard tonight."

It was the first win for Dallas against Arizona this season. The Coyotes won the first two games, each on home ice, by a combined 9-4.

"We just wanted a little payback," said Benn, whose 87 points are second in the League and equal the NHL career-high he set last season when he won the Art Ross Trophy. "They had our number in Phoenix a couple times this year. We wanted to come out with a strong effort. After they got their goal, I think this team took over a little bit."

Video: Niemi, Benn lead Stars to 4-1 home win over Coyotes

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