Benn has goal, assist in Stars’ win over Sharks
DALLAS (AP) — Jamie Benn was all over the score sheet for the Dallas Stars.
Benn had a goal, and assist and a rare fight that sparked the Stars to a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
Dallas even got a pair of goals from its struggling power play.
Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder also scored for the Stars, and Cristopher Nilstorp was outstanding in making 31 saves for his first NHL win.
“We needed it,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It was a hard-fought game. It was a tough game, not a lot of territory out there.”
The Stars, 1-3 in their previous four games, snapped an 0-for-16 power-play skid and scored on consecutive opportunities to take a 2-0 lead early in the third period.
“There was progress but we still have room for improvement. I didn’t think we were great out there by any means,” said Alex Goligoski, who had two assists. “But production matters, so it felt good to get a couple.”
Patrick Marleau notched the only goal for San Jose, his 12th of the season, but the Sharks fell to 1-6-2 in their last nine. Antti Niemi made 25 saves.
“More of the same. Pretty good effort, but you can’t take consolation in that,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “You have to put points in the bank, and we’re not doing it right now. You can’t win games scoring one goal.
“Power play scored a goal. It’s the same thing. It’s over and over. We’ve got to find ways to fix it.”
With Kari Lehtonen missing his third straight game because of a groin injury, Nilstorp stepped up to earn the victory.
“It’s a great feeling to get your first win,” said Nilstorp, a 29-year-old Swede in his first year in North America. “I think the guys did a great job in front of me helping me out. It means a lot for me.
“You get your first win, you get excited for the next game now, so my confidence builds up because of this.”
Benn, who fired up the Stars with a second-period fight against Joe Thornton, sealed the win with a wrist shot from the high slot that beat a screened Niemi with 2:11 remaining.
“He has a passion to win, and it sparked us for sure,” Gulutzan said of Benn’s fight. “There’s our young bull there, going out there and getting things going. I thought it gave our team some energy.”
Jagr broke the scoreless tie and the Stars’ four-game power play drought with 57.3 seconds left in the second period. Benn fed a quick pass from the right circle in front to Jagr, who redirected it over Niemi’s pad for his fifth goal of the season and 670th in the NHL.
“We finally got one,” Benn said of the power play. “Good to get that first one and put them on their heels a bit. It definitely gets our team going, and it was a sigh of relief.”
The Stars immediately went on another power play when Douglas Murray was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and 30 seconds into the final period, they struck again.
Ryder netted his sixth of the season when his wrist shot from the high slot beat Niemi past the blocker.
Dallas got into penalty trouble of its own after that, putting San Jose on a 5-on-3 advantage when Stephane Robidas was whistled for hooking at 2:17.
The Sharks needed just two seconds to capitalize as Thornton won the faceoff in the left circle and sent a pass to Marleau alone in front for a wrist shot that beat Nilstorp inside the right post.
Nilstorp then made a spectacular pad save on Thornton’s breakaway attempt at 9:03. After falling on Nilstorp, Thornton managed to feed the puck in front to Logan Couture for an easy tap-in that would have tied the game, but the goal was waved off because of goalie interference.
“I thought it was hockey play. I thought it was a forward attacking the net,” McLellan said. “I thought he went after the rebound, and you should have a right to make that play. I understand about protecting goaltenders and all that type of stuff, but we score more goals early and maybe we don’t even have to argue that call.”
The Stars nearly went up by two with 5:16 remaining, but Niemi made a fabulous pad save on Antoine Roussel’s point-blank wrist shot.
The sellout crowd rose to its feet at 8:21 of the second period when Thornton and Benn engaged in a rare fight for the offensive stars. Both players casually dropped their gloves and removed their helmets before squaring off.
“Just mix it up, trying to get myself going a bit, get the barn rocking,” Benn said. “It wakes you up, gets your adrenaline going, it’s pretty exciting. I just tried to get the guys going a bit.”
Thornton also chalked up the fight to a matter of circumstance.
“It just happens, that’s all,” Thornton said. “He speared me, and I speared him, and we kind of just dropped the gloves. That’s all.”
Less than two minutes later, the Stars nearly took the lead when Vernon Fiddler unleashed a slap shot on the rush from the left circle that beat Niemi over the glove but hit the far goal post.
The Stars had a prime opportunity when Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck into the crowd gave them a 5-on-3 power play for 1:02, but they couldn’t capitalize.
NOTES: Sharks LW Ryane Clowe sat out due to suspension, pending a hearing on Monday, for possibly coming off the bench to initiate an altercation Friday night with Chicago’s Andrew Shaw. ... Dallas D Aaron Rome left the game late in the first period after taking a shot off his foot and didn’t return. ... San Jose D Brent Burns also left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t come back. ... The Stars honored Taya Kyle, the widow of former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who was killed at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2.