Jamie Benn scores two; Stars keep pace with Blues

Jamie Benn scored two goals and the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators to keep pace with the St. Louis Blues for the lead in the Western Conference.

DALLAS — Radek Faksa’s first NHL goal at home was a memorable one. It was pretty much business as usual for Jason Spezza.

Faksa and Spezza scored 46 seconds apart in the second period, and the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Tuesday night.

Dallas won for the fifth time in six games to keep pace with St. Louis for the Western Conference lead. Each team has a 46-22-9 record and 101 points with five games to play. The tiebreaker currently belongs to the Stars, who have 44 regulation and overtime wins compared to 41 for the Blues.

Faksa converted a rebound at 11:03 of the second. It was the rookie’s third of the season.

"It's my first home-game goal," Faksa said. "I was patient, and I knew they would come."

Spezza skated in 2 on 1 with another young player, Valeri Nichushkin, kept the puck and beat Pekka Rinne for his 30th goal.

"I probably could have slid it over early," Spezza said. "Val did a good job of driving the back post. If a guy drives the back post, some of the times you can catch the goalie leaning, and I made a good shot."

Nashville lost for the second straight night, hurting its chances of catching Chicago for third in the loaded Central Division.

"We made a couple mistakes," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, "but our effort was for the circumstances or traveling, back-to-back, I thought our guys played real hard."

Jamie Benn scored two goals for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves. Patrick Sharp and Benn scored into an empty net during the final two minutes.

"Kari made some real good saves for us," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We didn't give up the high quality chances. We stayed pretty tight in our own end. He had to make a couple good saves for us, but we kept the quality of those saves down."

Ryan Ellis scored a short-handed goal at 6:12 of the first period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.

The Stars responded with three in a row. Benn scored his 38th goal on a breakaway at 10:55. Then there was the burst by Faksa and Spezza in the second.

Alex Goligoski assisted on Benn's first goal and Spezza's score, and was plus-five for the night. Goligoski passed from the Dallas end almost to Nashville's blue line to set up Benn.

"Their D got caught puck-watching a little bit. I saw (Benn) hanging out up there," Goligoski said. "It was a good read by him to hop off the bench and get up there. Easy play on my part, great goal by him."

Viktor Arvidsson got Nashville within one with a power-play goal at 14:41 of the second.

The Predators had chances to tie the game with 7:11 left when Filip Forsberg's shot hit the crossbar and 2:07 to play when Calle Jarnkrok hit the right post.

"We hit the post a bunch of times," Rinne said. "I know that doesn't count, but that shows that we still generated a lot.

"We've had two games where we had a chance to clinch a playoff spot and couldn't do it. So we just have to go to Pittsburgh and hopefully get it done (Thursday)."

Rinne finished with 20 saves.

On the game's first power play, Ellis intercepted a pass by Stars defenceman John Klingberg for a breakaway and his ninth goal of the season.

Game notes
Ellis left during the second period because of an upper-body injury. ... Predators C Paul Gaustad (upper body) returned after missing 10 games. ... Dallas exceeded 100 points for the first time since 2006-07. . This is the Dallas Stars' first season with three 30-goal scorers -- Benn, Spezza and the injured Tyler Seguin. The last time the franchise had at least three with 30 goals was 1992-93, when Russ Courtnall, Ulf Dahlen, Mike Modano and Dave Gagner had between 33 and 36 in the last season as the Minnesota North Stars. ... It's Spezza's fifth 30-goal season. ... Dallas' Ales Hemsky, who assisted on Faksa's goal, has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the last 11 games.