DALLAS — The goal for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday was to carry the momentum from a 2-1-0 road trip.
Thanks to two goals from Jamie Benn, two assists from Alex Goligoski, and Kari Lehtonen stopping 28 of 30 shots, the Stars defeated the Nashville Predators 5-2 at American Airlines Center.
“I thought we started the game off sloppy and got better as the game went on,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It was tough gaining on the ice tonight. Both teams defended pretty well.”
Radek Faksa, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Stars, who remain first in the Central Division and Western Conference with 101 points.
Dallas (46-22-9) eclipsed the century mark in points for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when the Stars finished with 107.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” Goligoski said. “Not a lot of teams hit (100 points), so we should feel good about that. The team’s worked hard all year.”
Nashville (39-25-13) failed to clinch a playoff spot for a second straight night. Pekka Rinne stopped 20 of 23 shots in a losing effort, and Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson scored for Nashville.
“Our guys played really hard tonight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made a couple mistakes, but our effort was (good) for the circumstances of traveling, back-to-back, I thought out guys played real hard.”
Sharp and Benn delivered empty-net goals late in regulation.
Nashville made it 1-0 at 6:12 of the first period when Ellis capitalized on a Dallas turnover for a short-handed goal.
Ellis intercepted a John Klingberg pass inside the neutral zone, skated up the ice and culminated the sequence by beating Lehtonen top shelf and to his short side with a slap shot from the right circle. Ellis’ ninth goal of the season came after teammate Barret Jackman was called for slashing at 5:21 of the first.
Ellis left the game early in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return after playing one shift in the middle frame.
Dallas answered at 10:55 of the first when Benn scored his 38th of the season. Goligoski sprung Benn, who was alone in the neutral zone, with a pass from inside the Dallas zone. Benn then scored with a wrist shot through the five hole of Rinne to make it 1-1.
“I didn’t feel like they got a lot of chances, but the ones they did, they were pretty high-quality chances and they were able to execute those chances,” Rinne said. “That’s just the way it goes.”
The Stars scored twice within 46 seconds in the second period to break the game open.
Faksa scored his third career goal off a rebound at 11:03. Rinne denied the initial shot by Antoine Roussel from the right circle, but as the goalie attempted the swat the puck away with his stick, Faksa tapped in the rebound to give Dallas its first lead.
Spezza made it a 3-1 game when he scored at 11:49. Mike Fisher had a breakaway on the other end for Nashville, but his wrist shot struck the top part of Lehtonen’s stick.
“I thought Kari (Lehtonen) was excellent,” Ruff said. “He made some real good saves for us. He made a big save (on Fisher) off one of our turnovers that turned into a goal going the other way, which for me was one of the turning points of the game.”
Spezza rushed up the right side of the ice and beat Rinne far post with a wrist shot from the edge of the right circle for his 30th goal of the season.
Nashville cut it to 3-2 with 5:19 remaining in the second when Arvidsson scored a power-play goal. Arvidsson blasted a slap shot inside the near post from the left circle while Dallas was serving a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
It was Arvidsson’s first goal in 14 games, since Feb. 25 at Chicago.
NOTES: The Predators scratched D Anthony Bitetto (lower body), RW Gabriel Bourque (upper body), LW Eric Nystrom and LW Austin Watson. … The Stars scratched D Jason Demers (shoulder), LW Travis Moen, D Jamie Oleksiak, RW Brett Ritchie (lower body), D Kris Russell (lower body) and C Tyler Seguin (Achilles tendon). … Three Predators: RW James Neal, Nystrom and C Mike Ribeiro, are former Stars. … Stars C Vernon Fiddler spent four seasons in Nashville before signing with Dallas prior to the 2011-12 season. … Predators C Paul Gaustad returned to the ice for the first time since March 5 at Colorado. Gaustad missed the previous 10 games with an upper-body injury. … G Kari Lehtonen started for the 10th time over Dallas’ past 12 games. … Predators G Pekka Rinne started his fifth consecutive game.