Benn breaks scoreless tie early in 2nd, Stars top Wild 4-1
Captain Jamie Benn broke a scoreless tie 23 seconds into the second period of his 1,001st career game, and the Dallas Stars beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Benn's 20th goal on a perfect feed from 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston started a three-goal second for the Western Conference-leading Stars.
Radek Faksa's one-timer on a precision 2-on-1 pass from Tyler Seguin came five minutes later, and Jani Hakanpaa tipped in a shot from Roope Hintz midway through the period.
“We wanted to play faster all year,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “Typically that allows you in the second periods with the long change if you can play fast to catch teams, and I think we did that tonight.”
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Joel Eriksson Ek scored on a power play to get Minnesota within 3-1 late in the second, and the Wild had Ryan Hartman's goal just 30 seconds later called off for goalie interference against Jordan Greenway. Minnesota has lost five consecutive road games in regulation.
“We get a positive situation, score a goal at the end of the second period, (Greenway is) going to the net, trying to do all the right things, takes a route and the goalie just happens to be there,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It's the right call, but we need a break like that to go our way.”
Hintz added an empty-netter for his 22nd of the season with 2:11 remaining, and Jake Oettinger made 38 saves for Dallas. Jason Robertson had two assists.
“Timely saves, and at the same time, I thought we defended well in front of him,” DeBoer said. “He was Jake. You just get used to that. You've got to make a real good, too perfect shot to beat him because he's always in position.”
The Stars' second consecutive victory stopped a four-game run of games going to extra time, which Dallas finished with a 1-0-3 record in a quartet of games decided by 3-2 scores. Three overtime losses started the strange stretch, followed by a shootout victory in Benn's 1,000th game.
They were all part of Dallas' season-high eight-game homestand. The Stars, who last played on the road Jan. 19, have two games left on the homestand.
“It's a nice feeling when you don't have to go to OT or a shootout for sure,” Hakanpaa said. “I think the boys in here had enough of that.”
Faska had a chance for a second goal when Greenway was called for hooking on a breakaway with six minutes remaining, but Filip Gustavsson easily stopped the penalty shot. Gustavsson had 33 saves.
After a scoreless first period in which Minnesota had several strong scoring chances early, Johnston waited with the puck at the blue line as Benn skated in. Johnston hit Benn in stride, and the 33-year-old faked Gustavsson on the goalie's left side and beat him on the right.
“I think adjusting to the pace of the game is a big thing,” Johnston said after a 10th assist to go with 13 goals that were tied for second among rookies to start the night. “Just kind of learning with that what kind of space and time you’ll have in situations. And kind of finding where space is open on the ice.”
Faksa had the simple task of redirecting the puck into an open net on the pass from Seguin, as did Minnesota's Eriksson Ek on a feed from All-Star Kirill Kaprizov after Miro Heiskanen was called for cross-checking Kaprizov.