COLUMBUS - The Dallas Stars had been waiting for their top players to step up after starting the new season with a shootout loss and a regulation defeat. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn responded in a big way Tuesday.
Seguin scored his first three goals of the season and Benn had a goal and three assists in the Stars' 4-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Dallas (1-1-1) prevented Columbus (2-1-0) from winning its first three games in a season for the first time since entering the NHL in 2000.
Neither Seguin nor Benn had points in the Stars' first two games, but they were strong at the start of the game, when each scored a goal in the first 6:20, and at the finish when Seguin, assisted by Benn, scored the winner at 12:16 of the third period and completed his hat trick by scoring into an empty net with one second remaining.
"That was an awesome display tonight," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought both guys played well. Tyler had a heck of game. [Benn], same thing."
Columbus center Ryan Johansen had two second-period goals, with Jack Johnson earning an assist on each. They were Johansen's first two goals of the season after he missed the preseason because of a contract dispute.
"Every day I feel more comfortable," Johansen said. "My job is to get to the level I want to be at. That was the best I felt tonight."
He would have been feeling even better but the Stars went ahead to stay when Benn's slap shot from inside the blue line went through traffic and was tipped into the net by Seguin for a 3-2 lead.
Johansen tied the score at 14:22 of the second period while Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley was serving a hooking penalty. Johnson got the puck to Nick Foligno at the right side of the net, and Foligno tried a stuff shot but goaltender Kari Lehtonen (33 saves) made the stop. However, the puck came free and slid across the crease to Johansen, who buried it.
"We want a killer instinct, so we're obviously disappointed we let them back in the game," Seguin said. "Our discipline has to be better on the road. We've got to find a way to not let teams off the hook."
Lehtonen came up big 40 seconds into the third period to keep the game tied when he used his right pad to stop a breakaway by Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson. Nine minutes later, Lehtonen stopped an unchecked Alexander Wennberg from five feet.
"We didn't play our greatest, but we had chances to win this game," Foligno said. "When the score was tied 2-2 we had plenty of opportunities but didn't get it done.
"We felt after the two [goals] we could keep pushing but [Lehtonen] closed the door."
The Blue Jackets felt the game was lost in a sluggish first period that was dominated at the onset by the Stars.
"When the puck dropped they were the hungrier team," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "They came out and put us on our heels. They won most of the battles. I don't know if I was surprised. That's what I expected out of Dallas. We just didn't have a response to their top line."
Seguin opened the scoring at 3:36, marking the first time Columbus had trailed this season. New linemate Colton Sceviour did the work low to feed Benn in the right circle, and Benn's shot was redirected at the left side of the crease by an open Seguin.
Benn went solo when he made it 2-0 at 6:20 by outmuscling two Blue Jackets and firing a wrist shot from the high shot that went top shelf past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (31 saves). The shots at that point were 8-0 for Dallas.
"I was just trying to win the battle," Benn said. "Once I got it out of there I found some room."
The Blue Jackets made it 2-1 at 7:13 of the second when Johansen beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle for his first of the season. It came after a breakout that began with Johnson's pass through center ice to Atkinson and was followed by a quick push ahead to Johansen.
Columbus threatened after Johansen's tying goal but Lehtonen stood his ground long enough for Seguin and Benn to take over at the end.
"The message between [Benn] and me going into tonight's game is we needed to raise our compete level," Seguin said. "Our line needs to get going if we want to win games. We have a deep team but it starts from the front [to] back. Tonight we did a better job."