DALLAS -- Jamie Benn's second goal of the game at 11:50 of the third period broke a tie, and the Dallas Stars rallied to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 at American Airlines Center on Thursday.
"I think we were due for one of those comeback character wins. We had a strong third period, and found a way to win the hockey game," Benn said.
After rookie defenseman Stephen Johns tied the game 3-3 at 9:42 of the third with his first NHL goal, Benn put Dallas ahead for the first time in the game just over two minutes later when he took a passout from Cody Eakin and beat Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop inside the far post with a backhand shot.
Benn has a career-high 36 goals; he's third in the League behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (42) and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks (38).
"I feel good. I think it's a reflection of my teammates and how well they've been playing too this year. I've got to give them a lot of credit for setting me up with a lot of those goals," Benn said.
Video: TBL@DAL: Stamkos deflects home his second goal
Eakin finished with three assists, Jason Spezza had a goal and Kari Lehtonen made 17 saves for the Stars (42-21-9), who lead the Central Division. Dallas is two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues and hosts the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Steven Stamkos scored two goals and Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for the Lightning (40-26-5), who had been 31-1-0 this season when leading after two periods. Alex Killorn also had two assists and Bishop finished with 29 saves. Tampa Bay, third in the Atlantic Division, visits the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
The Lightning fell three points behind the division-leading Florida Panthers, who won 4-1 at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"The guys in the room, they're going to hold themselves accountable. We were doing everything right for two periods and then to come out and completely change the way they played, we got to do better than that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We got to be better, it's the bottom line."`
Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead when he scored his 26th of the season 12:15 into the first period. Defenseman Andrej Sustr's wrist shot from the right circle hit Killorn's stick and caromed off Kucherov's right skate before going inside the far post.
Video: TBL@DAL: Ja. Benn nets wrister after turnover
Dallas tied it 1-1 at 14:09 on Spezza's 29th of the season. Bishop poked the puck away from Spezza with his stick, but the puck got behind Bishop and the goaltender inadvertently knocked it into his net with his blocker as he was swatting at it.
The Lightning regained the lead at 2-1 when Stamkos scored at 3:15 of the second period. With Tampa Bay on the power play. Lehtonen made a pad save on Kucherov's shot, but Stamkos picked up the rebound in the left circle and scored on a slap shot.
The goal ended the Lightning's 0-for-20 power-play drought and Dallas' streak of 21 consecutive kills.
"They're a good team. They're battle-tested," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "They went through a Stanley Cup playoff last year and game in, game out, they know how to compete. They make a lot of good plays, and they've got a goaltender that's as good as anybody in this League."
Video: TBL@DAL: Spezza evens the game in the 1st
Benn tied it at 2-2 at 5:42 of the second when he capitalized on a turnover in the Tampa Bay zone. Sustr attempted to clear the puck, but his pass struck Eakin's stick and fell to Benn, who beat Bishop inside the far post with a wrist shot from the slot.
Stamkos scored again with 2:41 remaining in the second, tapping in a pass from Killorn at the far post. It was the 33rd goal for Stamkos, tying him with Dallas' Tyler Seguin and Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues for fifth in the NHL.
But Tampa Bay's captain wasn't happy with the Lightning's failure to win a game they led three times.
"We played like a fragile team that was scared to lose and not hungry to close out a game or hungry to win a game," he said. "We can't let that fear of losing creep in at this time of the year. There's almost that feeling like we want to get to the playoffs here, but there's still a lot of hockey left. So we'll address that, nip that, and stay focused for these last 11 games of the season because there's no guarantee about the playoffs until you clinch a spot."
Video: TBL@DAL: Stamkos buries rebound on the power play
Johns made it 3-3 when his slap shot from the right point beat Bishop through the five-hole.
He admitted afterward that he has no idea where the puck is.
"I'm not sure. I think they're going to put it in a plaque or something. We took a few pictures. That was pretty cool, you know," Johns said. "The past few years I've played with a lot of guys when they put on Twitter their first goal, and it's like 'Oh, man! I hope that day comes.' I'm just so happy we got the win."
Dallas outshot Tampa Bay 17-4 in the third period.
Video: TBL@DAL: Kucherov tallies goal off own skate
"I thought it was a good response by our team," Spezza said. "After giving up a goal at the end of the second, we challenged ourselves to be good in the third and we did. We had some good changes and we felt the momentum swing in our favor. It was nice to get that big goal by Jamie and give us the lead."
With 22 seconds remaining, Tyler Seguin sustained a cut to his leg while battling Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman for the puck near the Dallas blue line. Seguin limped down the tunnel to the dressing room after time expired.
"He got a cut," Ruff said. "We'll know more tomorrow on that."
Forward Brenden Morrow, who signed a ceremonial one-day contract with Dallas earlier in the day to retire as a member of the Stars, dropped the puck for the pregame faceoff. Morrow played his first 12 NHL seasons with the Stars and his last one with the Lightning; he was part of the Tampa Bay team that lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks last spring.
Video: Ja. Benn scores twice in Stars 4-3 win over Lightning