Stars can’t crack Coyotes, Jamie Benn leaves game after big hit

The Dallas Stars had been on a roll on the road lately, racking up both wins and goals. But they ran into a roadblock Saturday night in Phoenix, falling 2-1 to the Coyotes.

Phoenix built a 2-0 lead in the game and then held off the Stars, who had a four-game road points streak snapped and lost in regulation for just the second time in their last nine road games (6-2-1).

“We should have got a point. 2-0 against these guys, it’s not easy to come back,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We had lots of time and chances, we just didn’t convert. Better fate, I don’t know. I wish we could have got a point out of here.”

The Stars not only lost the game, they also lost center Jamie Benn late in the contest. Benn headed to the locker room just over a minute left in the game after he was leveled by a hit in the Phoenix zone by Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. Gulutzan had no update on Benn’s status after the game. There was no penalty on the play.

“I thought it was late, but that’s not for me to decide,” Gulutzan said of the hit.

The Stars, who had scored three goals or more in eight straight road games, and had tallied 26 times over their last six away from home, found the Coyotes a tough nut to crack Saturday night. The Stars put 61 shots towards the net, but the Coyotes blocked almost half of them.

“Sometimes you’ve got to give the other team credit. I thought they played hard defensively and they got in our lanes,” said Gulutzan. “I thought we needed to be a little bit better at net presence and getting the shots past the first defenders rather than getting them blocked. That’s something we stressed in between the first and second, but they did a good job.”

“When you block 29 shots that’s a sign that your team comes to compete, they’ll do whatever it takes to win on a given night,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “That’s a little more what we are looking for.”

The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead late in the first. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson came off the bench, took a Steve Sullivan pass at the blue line, made a great spin move to get to the right circle, fed the puck below the goal line to Antoine Vermette, who centered the puck to Shane Doan, who tapped it in from close range.

“There’s only three or four guys in the League who can make that play and (Ekman-Larsson) is one of them,” Doan said.

Phoenix extended its lead to 2-0 in the second when Stars forward Matt Fraser turned the puck over near the Dallas net and Boyd Gordon set up Rob Klinkhammer, who scored into an open side of the net for his first NHL goal.

The Stars climbed back into the game when the Coyotes took back-to-back penalties late in the second, including a delay of game call for shooting the puck over the glass. Jaromir Jagr scored from the right circle with 1:41 left in the second to make it a 2-1 game.

The Coyotes took back-to-back penalties midway through the third, including another delay of game infraction for shooting the puck over the glass, and the Stars had a 1:29 five-on-three. But this time they couldn’t cash in.

“That was our chance to get back in the game, and we couldn’t do it,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “That gave them momentum the rest of the game.”

The loss dropped the Stars to 12-10-2 on the season and knocked them out of the top eight in the Western Conference. Phoenix, which snapped a two-game losing streak, improved to 12-10-3 and moved into the top eight.

Notes

*The Stars failed to score three goals for just the second time in the last 15 games.

*Jaromir Jagr ran his goal scoring streak to four games. He has five goals during that stretch.

*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 19 of 21 shots in the game.

*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play. The Stars are 8-27 (29.6%) on the power play over the last seven games.

*The Stars were 2-2 on the penalty kill Saturday and are 13-14 (92.9%) over the last five games.

*Brenden Morrow (groin), Ray Whitney (foot) and Aaron Rome (foot) were out for the Stars.

*Philip Larsen and Francis Wathier were scratched.

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