DALLAS – The combination of 39-year-old Mike Modano and 20-year-old rookie Jamie Benn kept the Dallas Stars’ faint playoff hopes alive.
Benn scored twice off assists from Modano, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and the Stars beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 on Friday night. With the game tied at three, Benn’s shot from the slot off Modano’s setup trickled through goalie Devan Dubnyk’s pads and over the line at 2:22 for Benn’s 20th of the season.
“(Benn) has a great release, a great shot,” Modano said. “Putting him in the slot is an easy scenario to draw up. Playing with Benner, I was trying to get him his 20th.”
Modano registered his 800th career assist on Benn’s first goal. The NHL’s career goal leader among U.S.-born players returned to the lineup after missing nine games following an appendectomy.
“I thought he played a great game,” Benn said. “He had a lot of energy out there. He definitely brought it.”
When Modano was shown on the video board in recognition of the assists milestone, he received a loud ovation from the crowd.
“I hate to sound corny, but there certainly was a lot of love out there for Mike Modano,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said.
Mike Ribeiro’s goal at 8:35 of the final period stretched Dallas’ lead to 5-3, and Benn’s second of the night from Modano at 15:07 gave the Stars a three-goal advantage.
Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen scored for Dallas during an 11-second span of the first period.
James Neal also had a first-period goal for the Stars, who have 84 points with four games remaining.
Dallas is five points behind Colorado and Calgary, tied for eighth place in the West at the post-season cutoff, leaving the Stars no margin for error.
“We’re still kind of alive,” Modano said. “There’s still a chance.”
Dallas is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. That hasn’t happened since 1987 and 1988 when the franchise was based in Minnesota.
Dustin Penner, Marc Pouliot and Ethan Moreau had second-period goals for the Oilers, who have lost four straight. Edmonton has 55 points and is assured of finishing with the NHL’s worst record.
Neal converted Richards’ centring pass at 3:51 of the first period to give Dallas early momentum.
Richards made it 2-0 with four seconds left on a power play at 16:42 of the opening period with a one-timer from the slot. Lehtinen provided Dallas with a three-goal pad at 16:53.
At that point, the game looked like a runaway against the uninspired Oilers.
But Edmonton came out more focused after the break and mounted a comeback.
Penner notched his team-high 28th goal on a breakaway at 4:46 of the second period. Pouliot made it 3-2 at 9:06 when he tucked Penner’s goal-mouth pass into an open net, and Moreau tied it at 14:20 on a backhanded shot that pinballed into the net off Modano’s skate.
“Not a very good start, but a hard comeback,” Oilers coach Pat Quinn said. “Still, the goals that were given up were sorry goals. It’s frustrating that we haven’t been able to kind of stem that tide, with the types of goals that have been going in on us. The front of the net is easy meat for anybody we play.”
The Oilers got off to a similar start in their previous game Tuesday night, falling behind Detroit 4-0 before rallying to give the Red Wings a scare in Detroit’s 5-4 victory.
“Everyone should be embarrassed,” Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney said. “We come out and play like that in Detroit and then we do the same thing tonight. It’s just not learning. That’s why we’re in 30th place.”
NOTES: Edmonton C Gilbert Brule sustained a right ankle sprain in the first period and didn’t return. Brule was on crutches after the game. … Penner, who sustained a scratched cornea in Tuesday’s game, played with a protective shield. “It’s annoying,” Penner said. … Edmonton C Sam Gagner (hip) missed his fourth consecutive game. … Dallas is 21-3-2 in its last 26 home meetings with Edmonton. … The Stars are 7-8-2 since the Olympic break. … The Oilers made the third stop of a four-game road trip. … Edmonton is 0-8-1 in its last nine on the road. … Dallas has 11 goals in its last two games, matching its season high for a two-game stretch.