In front of about a hundred friends and family, the 20-year-old rookie scored his first NHL goal with 1:33 left in the third period to get the Dallas Stars into overtime, although the Stars ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night at GM Place.
The Stars have now earned at least a point in every game this season, despite losing three games in shootouts (1-0-3).
It looked like the Stars were going to fall in regulation until Benn, who grew up in nearby Victoria, BC, banged home a pretty pass from Mike Ribeiro to tie it up and give the Stars four-of-six possible points on a three-game Western Canada road trip.
“I thought it was a good point,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “I felt the latter half of the game was the better half for us. We started shortening our shifts, we started advancing the puck a little bit more and supporting our plays, and when you do that, that’s when good things start to happen for you. In the end, we had a lot of good chances in the third period, we had a couple more in overtime. But they’re a good club and they work hard, so it is a good point for us.”
In the shootout, both Vancouver shooters, Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Kesler scored against Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, while Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo stopped both Ribeiro and Brad Richards to give the Canucks the victory and leaving Dallas 0-3 in the tie-breaking procedure.
“We got to get the shootout figured out, we’ve given away three points there this year,” Crawford said. “Our guys got to be way more serious about that part of the game. Those are points that we’d like to have, for sure.
“We’ve worked at it, we’ve filmed it, we’ve actually done a lot of work with it. It’s a big part of the game now, it really is, and it’s probably the difference between somebody making the playoffs. And we’re 0-for-3 in it now, and that’s not a good stat to have.”
During the game, both Ribeiro and Richards each scored a goal and an assist, while captain Brenden Morrow added two assists.
Turco was solid in goal, making 22 saves.
But Benn, who played with a spark all night and led the squad with five shots on goal, was once again in the Stars’ spotlight.
“That was a big goal, for sure,” Crawford said of Benn’s late equalizer. “I thought that he’s got so much poise and presence and patience with the puck and he’s a big, strong kid that hangs on to it and does good things with it, so people are going to quickly realize how good he is.”
Another troubling area for the Stars this year has been their penalty killing unit. The Canucks scored two of their goals on power plays and were 2-for-4 on the night, leaving Dallas just 9-for-16 on the season, a miserable 56.3 kill percentage.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the final period, the Stars got the equalizer less than five minutes in on a nice play by Richards. After unleashing a quick snap shot from the right face-off circle, Richards retrieved his own rebound as winger James Neal provided a screen in front. It appeared as if Richards was going to circle around behind the net, but he suddenly stopped and stuffed it inside the near post before Luongo could react.
Unfortunately, less than two minutes later, the Canucks scored again to make it 3-2. Henrik Sedin controlled the puck behind the Dallas net and as several players crammed in front of the net, Sedin fed a pass out front, where Willie Mitchell found it and popped it through several legs and over Turco at 6:53.
The Stars held an 9-1 edge in shots on goal over the first 15 minutes of the period, but of course, the one shot was the one that put the Canucks ahead.
Dallas dodged a major bullet with 2:08 left in regulation when Turco nearly handed the game over to Vancouver, then bailed himself out. After stopping a routine shot from Christian Ehrhoff, Turco dropped the puck and attempted to fire a long clearing pass up the middle, but he flubbed it a bit and Mason Raymond stole the puck in the slot. Raymond came in on a mini-breakaway, but Turco made a nice save to keep the Stars within one.
Just 35 seconds later, Benn’s first NHL goal made it 3-3. On the rush into the zone, Ribeiro somehow slithered a pass from the left corner past multiple Canuck defenders, through the crease to Benn at the far post and the rookie slammed it home into the open side of the net.
While the action was exciting during overtime, neither team really had any glorious opportunities, setting the stage for the shootout.
Dallas went on the power play almost immediately, when Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa was whistled for tripping just 32 seconds into the opening period, but the Stars were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Neal had the best chance with a point-blank wrist shot, but Luongo swallowed it up at the one-minute mark.
The Stars did cash in on their second man-advantage, as Ribeiro notched his second goal of the season at 6:09. Controlling the puck at the top of the right face-off circle, Ribeiro attempted to connect with Benn in the slot for a re-direct, but instead his pass deflected off the stick of Vancouver’s Rick Rypien in front and past Luongo for an early 1-0 lead.
On their third power play of the first seven minutes of the opening period, the Stars nearly surrendered a short-handed goal, but Turco came up with a spectacular pad save. Mikael Samuelsson carried the puck into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush and slid a nice pass through lone defender Stephane Robidas’ legs across to the charging Henrik Sedin in front, and Turco did the splits to deny him.
Robidas ended up leaving the ice for awhile when he was hit in the chin with by a shot with about six minutes left in the period. Of course, tough hockey player that he is, he ended up returning for the second period.
After a considerable amount of sustained pressure in the Dallas zone while on a power play, the Canucks ended up evening it up with 5:15 left in the period. Kesler beat Turco over the glove with a quick wrist shot from the right face-off circle for his second of the year.
Vancouver utilized another power play to go ahead 2-1 with 3:14 left in the second period, as Alexandre Burrows finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play with his third goal of the season. Henrik Sedin started the play in the right corner, feeding it across to Samuelsson in the left circle, who then found Burrows in front. Instead of one-timing it on goal, though, Burrows stopped the puck and swept it around Turco for the goal.
Dallas nearly got one back on a man advantage of their own with just 40 seconds left in the second, when Richards made a beautiful long pass up the middle to send Loui Eriksson in on a breakaway. Eriksson fired a quick wrister from the slot but Luongo made the stop.
Having completed their first three-game road trip to Western Canada with a 1-0-2 record, the Stars return home to Texas in preparation for facing the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center Wednesday night (7:30pm, FSN).
- With his goal and assist, Richards now has points in every game this season and leads the club with six (two goals, four assists).
- Ribeiro’s goal and assist leaves him with a three-game point streak, during which he’s collected four points (two goals, three assists).
- Robidas, who earned a career-high +5 plus/minus rating Friday night in Calgary, picked up an assist on Richards’ goal, giving him points in three straight contests (one goal, three assists).
- Benn now has points in three straight games as well (one goal, two assists).
- Eriksson’s assist was his first of the season, giving him points in consecutive matches after going pointless in the first two games.
- Neal did not earn a point, ending his season-opening point streak at three games (three goals, one assist), although he did lead the club with six hits.
- Veteran winger Jere Lehtinen returned to the lineup and played his first game of the season after missing all of training camp and the first three contests with a hip/groin injury. In 11:32 of ice time, Lehtinen registered four shots on goal.
- Center Steve Ott lasted just five shifts (3:19 of ice time) before suffering an undisclosed injury and missing the rest of the game.
- Center Mike Modano sat out his third straight game with a rib injury and is listed as day-to-day. With Lehtinen making it back into the lineup, center Toby Petersen watched from the press box as a healthy scratch, as did defenseman Jeff Woywitka.
- The Stars have outscored opponents 9-4 at even strength so far this year.
- Despite the shootout loss, the Stars now own a 9-4-3 record in their last 16 visits to GM Place and sport a 16-8-3 mark in their last 27 regular season matches with the Canucks overall.
- Goaltender Marty Turco entered the night sporting a 17-6-1 mark with two shutouts and a 1.91 goals-against average in 24 career regular season contests against the Canucks.