DALLAS — Much like Mike Modano was during his long, successful run with the Dallas Stars, current captain Jamie Benn is the face of the franchise.
On Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes, Benn scored his 40th goal of the season and Antti Niemi stopped 30 of 31 shots in a 4-1 win.
Benn is Dallas’ first 40-goal scorer since Modano scored 50 during the 1993-94 season, the Stars’ first in Dallas after relocating from Minnesota.
“It means I’ve got good linemates and good teammates,” Benn said. “They’re setting me up 40 times, I guess.”
Dallas (47-22-9), which won for the sixth time in its past seven games, also got goals from Patrick Eaves, Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp. Ales Hemsky and John Klingberg had two assists each.
The Stars have 103 points, two ahead of St. Louis for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Arizona (34-36-7), which is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, got its lone goal from Martin Hanzal.
“Well, it’s mathematically (official) but it’s something that’s been hovering around us for a while, so it’s not as if it’s a shock,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s unfortunate. From where we were last year, we’ve got growth started, so we’re moving in the right direction.”
Hanzal suffered an upper-body injury late in the first period and did not return to the ice.
Tippett said postgame that Hanzal had the same illness which also sidelined Oliver Ekman-Larsson and that both players will be further evaluated on Friday.
Mike Smith stopped 29 of 32 shots in a losing effort.
“I wasn’t quite as sharp as I’ve been and it showed at the end on the scoreboard,” Smith said.
Sharp scored an empty-net, power-play goal, his 20th of the season, with 1:11 remaining in regulation.
Arizona struck first when Hanzal scored on an easy tap-in in the slot 2:53 before the first intermission. The goal featured a great passing sequence between Anthony Duclair, who slipped a backhand pass to Max Domi in the slot. Domi then fed Hanzal for his 13th goal of the season.
“That was a good goal,” Tippett said. “We needed a special play if we were going to score and we got it, but unfortunately we gave it back right away. It was an uphill fight for us all night.”
Dallas answered less than a minute later when Eaves scored his 10th goal 1:55 prior to the first intermission. Eaves beat Smith through the five-hole with a wrist shot from the right circle.
The Stars took their first lead 11 seconds into the second period when Faksa scored his fourth goal of the season from the slot. Hemsky, who has 13 points over his past 12 games, sent a pass through the slot from behind the Arizona goal.
Antoine Roussel whiffed on his shot attempt, but Faksa flicked the puck into the net to make it 2-1.
“He’s been pretty consistent all year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Hemsky. “His compete for most of the year has been excellent, and I think he’s getting rewarded on the points side. Sometimes the points come to you, sometimes they don’t. They’re starting to come. He’s in the right place, and it’s good to see.”
Benn gave the Stars a two-goal edge at 3-1 at 10:43 of the second period. Benn, second in the NHL in goals, scored with a wrist shot from the right circle that traveled in under Smith’s left shoulder.
“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. I think the reason he’s scored that many is because he scores goals a lot of different ways,” Ruff said of Benn.
Benn is second in the NHL with 87 points, equaling his career high set last season when he lead won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s points leader.
NOTES: The Coyotes scratched D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (illness), LW Sergei Plotnikov, LW Jiri Sekac, D Michael Stone (knee) and RW Viktor Tikhonov. Ekman-Larsson was expected to play but did not come out for pregame warmups. … 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). … Coyotes LW Eric Selleck made his NHL debut. He was recalled Wednesday from Springfield, where he had 32 points (22 assists) in 59 games for the AHL team. … Stars G Antti Niemi appeared in his 46th game of the season. … Coyotes D Alex Grant made his Phoenix debut. He appeared in two games with Anaheim during the 2013-14 season. … Coyotes coach Dave Tippett made the morning skate optional on Thursday. … Stars coach Lindy Ruff held an optional practice on Wednesday.