Hurricanes clinch playoff spot, but Benn and Stars gain key OT win

If the Dallas Stars are going to make the playoffs, it will be because of the work by players like Jamie Benn. The Stars’ big captain generated four points, including the OT game-winner, in a 4-3 OT win over the Hurricanes.

It’s now the second straight game where Benn’s scored the OT game-winner. In doing so, Benn tied Mike Modano for the Stars’ franchise record of nine overtime goals.

Now, falling short against the Stars isn’t all bad news for the Hurricanes, though. By fighting back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, Carolina made it to OT, and the Hurricanes clinched a playoff spot in the process.

Hurricanes clinch playoff spot; Stars keep pace with Predators

Thanks to the Predators beating the Panthers 4-1, Monday ended up being pretty good to both the Stars and the Hurricanes.

Take a look at the updated Central Division standings after the Stars and Predators gained two points, the Hurricanes clinched a playoff berth with a standings point, and the Panthers finished empty-handed.

1. Hurricanes: 31-10-7, 69 points in 48 games played
2. Panthers: 31-14-5, 67 points in 50 GP
3. Lightning: 32-14-2, 66 points in 48 GP
4. Predators: 27-21-2, 56 points in 50 GP

Stars: 21-15-2, 54 points in 48 GP

No doubt, games in hand continue to loom large. The Stars have those games in hand to gain on the Predators, while the Lightning may have the upperhand in gaining the second seed. Of course, those Central Division races are tight, so more can change, but Monday’s Stars – Hurricanes game was significant.

Benn coming up big for Dallas

When people bring up Jamie Benn, they almost always feel obliged to mention that he’s “lost a step.” (Or more than one step.)

But if there’s another trend that’s noticeable with Benn, it’s that he’s still able to elevate his game when the games start to matter more. Perhaps he also can take advantage of his roughneck style in this format, and also when the game slows down ever-so-subtly as fatigue sets in down the stretch.

Either way, Jamie Benn has been heating up lately.

With three assists on Monday, Benn’s generated 15 points in 15 April games. During his previous 29 games this season, Benn merely managed 16 points. (One of those points was also the game-winner in the Stars’ game against the Red Wings, which almost feels like it should count for more, considering how Jonathan Bernier was playing.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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