The Dallas Stars continue to rack up the wins, and Stars captain Jamie Benn continues to rack up the goals. Benn scored his 40th goal of the season as the Stars defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 4-1, at American Airlines Center Thursday night.
Benn became the first Stars player to hit the 40-goal mark since Mike Modano scored 50 in 1993-93, the team’s first season in Dallas.
“It means I’ve got good line mates and good teammates for setting me up 40 times,” Benn said.
Benn, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer last season, ranks second in the NHL in goals (40) and second in points (87).
“It’s a huge accomplishment for him,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “He worked hard on and off the ice. It’s always nice to see a guy like that get a 40-goal season under his belt. He’s a hell of a player and a great teammate.”
Patrick Eaves, Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp also scored goals for the Stars, and Antti Niemi stopped 31 of 32 shots as the Stars won for the first time in three tries against Arizona.
“We just played our game. In Phoenix, we played up and down and run and gun,” said Stars forward Ales Hemsky, who had two assists. “Today we played like we had the last eight games or so with good defense and we created offense from that.”
The Stars (47-22-9) won for the sixth time in the past seven games (6-1-0) and moved two points ahead of idle St. Louis for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference.
“You always want to be the best but it is not what we are focused on,” Fiddler said. “We’re just focused on getting better every game and doing the right things, so when we go into the playoffs it is just habits. And at the same time, we are trying to get as many points as we can.”
The Coyotes (34-36-7) lost their second straight game and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. The Coyotes announced before the game that defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (illness) would not play and then lost center Martin Hanzal to illness after the first period.
“Taking those guys out of our lineup, it’s a big hole obviously. We needed a lot of things to go right for us tonight,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It was a night we needed our goaltender to be really outstanding and we gave up some chances, a couple he’d probably like to have there, but that’s the way the game went.”
The game got off to a physical start when Stars defenseman Stephen Johns flattened Coyotes forward Max Domi in the neutral zone. But Domi had a hand in getting the Coyotes an early lead, taking a pass from Anthony Duclair and then setting up Hanzal, who finished off a pretty play off the rush to put Arizona up 1-0 at 17:07 of the first. The Stars answered 58 seconds later when Eaves scored from the bottom of the right circle off the rush to make it a 1-1 game.
The Stars took a 2-1 lead just 11 seconds into the second period. Hemsky set up Faksa, who scored from the slot for his third goal in the past five games. Benn made it 3-1 at the 10:33 mark, fighting off a couple of Arizona defenders and then putting the puck through Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith to hit the 40-goal mark.
"[40 goals] is a tough mark to get to in today's game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “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.”
Emotions picked up as the game moved along. Stars forward Colton Sceviour dropped the gloves with Arizona’s Alex Grant late in the second after a hit on Stars defenseman John Klingberg. Jordie Benn dropped the gloves with Arizona’s Eric Selleck in the third period.
“Some of this emotion is really good, like we mentioned after the San Jose game. You have guys that are stepping in, caring for each other,” Ruff said. “I think [Sceviour] thought their guy took a run at Klingberg, and he stepped right in. That’s all good stuff, part of the job. That guy that Jordie fought was a tough guy. He was called up to probably do one thing, and that was to scrap, and I thought Jordie did a good job against him.”
Arizona pulled Smith late in the game for an extra attacker with the Stars on a power play, and Sharp scored into the empty net with 1:11 remaining in the game to push the Dallas lead to 4-1.
*The Stars won their fourth straight game at home and are now 26-11-2 (54 points) at American Airlines Center.
*Stars coach Lindy Ruff won his 699th game. He is one win away from becoming the fifth NHL coach to win 700 games.
*Jamie Benn ranks second in the NHL in goal scoring with 40. Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin is tops with 44.
*Benn hit 87 points, matching his career-high set last season when he won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer.
*Ales Hemsky extended his points streak to six games (two goals, five assists). Hemsky has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in the past 12 games.
*Patrick Eaves’ goal was his tenth goal of the season. The Stars now have 12 players who have scored ten goals or more this season.
*The Stars outshot the Coyotes 33-32 and had a 69-48 advantage in shot attempts.
*Eaves led the Stars with six shots on goal. Eaves and Patrick Sharp led Dallas with nine shot attempts apiece.
*The Stars were 1-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 29 of 58 faceoffs (50 percent).
*Radek Faksa won 9 of 13 faceoffs (64 percent). Jason Spezza won 11 of 18 (61 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 15 (40 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 3 of 11 (27 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:28 of ice time.
The Stars hit the road for two games, playing at Los Angeles on Saturday and then at Anaheim on Sunday.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Injured: Kris Russell (lower body), Brett Ritchie (lower body), Tyler Seguin (Achilles), Jason Demers (shoulder)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.