Benn has goal, assist in Stars' win over Sharks
Ryder netted his sixth of the season when his wrist shot from the high slot beat Niemi past the blocker.
Dallas got into penalty trouble of its own after that, putting San Jose on a 5-on-3 advantage when Stephane Robidas was whistled for hooking at 2:17.
The Sharks needed just two seconds to capitalize as Thornton won the faceoff in the left circle and sent a pass to Marleau alone in front for a wrist shot that beat Nilstorp inside the right post.
Nilstorp then made a spectacular pad save on Thornton's breakaway attempt at 9:03. After falling on Nilstorp, Thornton managed to feed the puck in front to Logan Couture for an easy tap-in that would have tied the game, but the goal was waved off because of goalie interference.
"I thought it was hockey play. I thought it was a forward attacking the net," McLellan said. "I thought he went after the rebound, and you should have a right to make that play. I understand about protecting goaltenders and all that type of stuff, but we score more goals early and maybe we don't even have to argue that call."
The Stars nearly went up by two with 5:16 remaining, but Niemi made a fabulous pad save on Antoine Roussel's point-blank wrist shot.
The sellout crowd rose to its feet at 8:21 of the second period when Thornton and Benn engaged in a rare fight for the offensive stars. Both players casually dropped their gloves and removed their helmets before squaring off.
"Just mix it up, trying to get myself going a bit, get the barn rocking," Benn said. "It wakes you up, gets your adrenaline going, it's pretty exciting. I just tried to get the guys going a bit."
Thornton also chalked up the fight to a matter of circumstance.
"It just happens, that's all," Thornton said. "He speared me, and I speared him, and we kind of just dropped the gloves. That's all."
Less than two minutes later, the Stars nearly took the lead when Vernon Fiddler unleashed a slap shot on the rush from the left circle that beat Niemi over the glove but hit the far goal post.
The Stars had a prime opportunity when Marc-Edouard Vlasic's delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck into the crowd gave them a 5-on-3 power play for 1:02, but they couldn't capitalize.
NOTES: Sharks LW Ryane Clowe sat out due to suspension, pending a hearing on Monday, for possibly coming off the bench to initiate an altercation Friday night with Chicago's Andrew Shaw. ... Dallas D Aaron Rome left the game late in the first period after taking a shot off his foot and didn't return. ... San Jose D Brent Burns also left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and didn't come back. ... The Stars honored Taya Kyle, the widow of former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who was killed at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2.