Benn scores 40th goal, Stars beat Coyotes 4-1
DALLAS (AP) Jamie Benn doesn't say much about himself. Stars coach Lindy Ruff isn't so shy when it comes to taking about Dallas' captain.
Benn scored his 40th goal, Antti Niemi made 31 saves and Dallas beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night to move two points ahead in the Western Conference race.
''It means I've got good line mates and good teammates,'' Benn said. ''They're setting me up 40 times, I guess.''
Benn became the first Dallas player since Mike Modano in 1993-94 to score 40. Modano's retired number hangs from the rafters at the American Airlines Center.
''It's a tough mark to get to in today's game,'' Ruff said.
''The reason he scored that many is because he scores goals a lot of different ways. He can do it with skill, he can do it with power. He's got a great shot. He gets around the net, he gets tips and rebounds.''
Dallas (103 points) pulled away from second-place St. Louis (101). The Stars have four games remaining, and the Blues have five.
The loss eliminated the Coyotes from playoff contention.
Arizona's Martin Hanzal scored the game's first goal 17:07 into the first period, but Dallas tied it less than a minute later on Patrick Eaves' 10th goal.
The Stars' Radek Faksa scored 11 seconds into the second period. Benn's 40th came 10 minutes later, and Patrick Sharp added No. 20 into an empty net on the power play with 1:11 to play.
Only Washington's Alex Ovechkin has more goals this season (44) than Benn, the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy winner.
Niemi's 16 career wins against Arizona are his most against any team. He had not won since Feb. 23. Kari Lehtonen had started the previous six games for the Stars, who have won six of their last seven.
''It puts our goaltending in a great spot,'' Ruff said. ''Both their games have been real good for us here for a couple of weeks.
''(Niemi) puts a lot of work in when we're done practice,'' Ruff added. ''He's out there before practice. He put the work in, he knew he had a better game and he found it.''
Mike Smith had 29 saves for the Coyotes.
Dallas' Ales Hemsky extended his point streak to six games with assists on the two second-period goals. John Klingberg also had two assists, and Benn added an assist on Sharp's goal.
Hanzal, who scored a goal in each of the three games between the teams this season, left after the first period. The Coyotes also played without their leading scorer, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, because of illness. Coach Dave Tippett said Hanzal also was sick.
''Taking those guys out of our lineup, it's a big hole obviously,'' Tippett said. ''We needed a lot of things to go right for us tonight. We needed our goaltender to be really outstanding and we gave up some chances, a couple he'd probably like to have.''
NOTES: Hanzal had three of his 13 goals and two assists in the Coyotes' three games against Dallas. ... Arizona LW Eric Selleck made his NHL debut, and D Alex Grant played in his third game and first with the Coyotes. Each received a fighting major, Grant for a bout with Dallas' Colton Sceviour in the second period and Selleck against Jordie Benn in the third. Jamie Benn said when he saw his brother getting into the fight, he was thinking, ''Good luck, bud.'' Ruff said, ''That guy that Jordie fought probably was called up to do one thing, and that's to scrap.'' ... Stars D Kris Russell (lower body) missed his fifth game. C Tyler Seguin (Achilles tendon) remained out but could resume skating next week. ... Arizona won the season series 2-1. ... Hemsky has seven points (two goals, five assists) during his streak and has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games. ... Dallas leads the NHL in empty-net goals and has scored four in winning the last three. ... The Stars have 12 players with 10 or more goals, one away from the franchise record of 13 last achieved in 1993-94, their first year in Dallas. Valeri Nichushkin has scored nine.