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Benn, Spezza help Stars stop Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist to help the Dallas Stars to a 5-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Cody Eakin and Jason Demers scored for Dallas (3-1-0), which withstood a rally by Tampa Bay early in the third period.

Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning (3-2-0), who lost defenseman Victor Hedman midway late in the second period after he was injured on a hit from Benn that sent him into the boards.

Benn's goal came on a Dallas power play at 14:14 of the first period and gave the Stars a 2-1 lead. Spezza made a highlight-reel cross-ice pass to Benn, who was waiting in the slot for a tip in.

Eakin extended the lead to 3-1 at 9:34 in the second period when he sent a wrist shot past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop off a pass from Mattias Janmark. Demers scored the Stars' second power-play goal with a slap shot from center point that made it 4-1 at 18:12.

"We came out a little slow, but I thought the rest of the first period we played good," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "They stepped up a little in the second period but [Lehtonen] gave us five or six big saves. For me, the depth of scoring, where it was coming from, and the special teams did a nice job. Everybody up front there was in on it."

With Hedman injured and Nikita Nesterov off the ice with a game misconduct, the Lightning had to play the final 24:04 with four defensemen; forward Brian Boyle took shifts on defense in the third period.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he was unsure of Hedman's status for Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres and an upcoming road trip that begins Tuesday.

"Well, he didn't come back, so anytime somebody gets hit the way he did ...," Cooper said. "I don't know for sure what's wrong with him. I talked to him after and he said he was feeling OK, but I'm not a doctor. We'll have a better indication [Friday]."

The Lightning began a comeback at 7:06 of the third period when Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first goal of the season off an assist from Stamkos to make it 4-2.

"I knew they were going to hit us with a big push," Ruff said. "They are a good team, they'll make plays. They forced us into a couple of turnovers, took advantage of them, and got back in the game, but I thought we answered right away. I thought our desperation was good."

Less than 100 seconds later, Stamkos scored his second goal off the game on a wrist shot that beat Dallas goalie Kari Lethonen on the glove side to make it 4-3.

"I think we've got to work on our special teams a little bit," Stamkos said. "Our penalty kill was top 10 in the League last year and we're struggling there. And our power play, we got off to a decent start, but we couldn't get the puck in the zone [Thursday]. So we'll work on that, but those are things I think we can improve on. Five-on-5 play I thought we took it to them for some stretches."

Spezza scored on a backhand from the edge of the goal line that got past Bishop with 9:31 left.

"Our line was on for the 4-3 goal so it was nice to get it back and get the two-goal lead again," Spezza said. "We knew they weren't going to sit back when it was 4-1. We made some mistakes, but they kept coming too ... to get a win, we're leaving here happy."

Tampa Bay led 1-0 at 2:24 of the first period on Stamkos' first goal, a one-timer set up by a pass from Jonathan Drouin in the slot.

The Stars tied the game at 8:58 when Seguin tried to send in a shot from Jyrki Jokipakka that took an odd bounce and deflected off Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle before going in the net.

Lethonen made 30 saves for the Stars. Bishop, who was pulled for an extra attacker with three minutes remaining, made 17.

"The team needed a big save from me to keep the momentum and I wasn't able to do that," Bishop said.

Ruff said Stars forward Curtis McKenzie, who was injured on the check from behind by Nesterov, went to the hospital and his status was unknown.

Lightning forward Alex Killorn was a late scratch with an upper-body injury and his status is day-to-day.

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