"I think [Benn] tried to honor our former captain,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “His performance was great to see. I thought he scored a couple big goals for us, and obviously the game-winner was a huge one.”
Benn took a pass from Cody Eakin and scored off a backhand shot from 15 feet to cap off a third-period rally that saw the Stars erase a 3-2 Tampa Bay lead. The goal capped off a three-point night (two goals, one assist) for Benn, who succeeded Morrow as captain.
“Coming in here as a young guy, he kind of took me under his wing, and he taught me a lot,” Benn said of Morrow. “I definitely still try to play like him a bit; throwing the body around. He is the true definition of a warrior; he is a character guy. I think he has got a lot of heart. He was a player that led by example and didn’t talk too much, kind of like myself. When he did talk, everyone listened. It was pretty special for him to come out here tonight.”
Jason Spezza and Stephen Johns also scored for the Stars. It was the first NHL goal for Johns and a big one. He scored to tie the game 3-3 at 9:42 of the third period.
“I think I was happier to get the game tied and from there on, it was just an unbelievable win, and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Johns said.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 17 of 20 shots for the Stars, who bounced back from an ugly 5-2 loss against Los Angeles Tuesday with a much stronger defensive effort.
“We definitely want to get the goals against down,” said Benn. “I thought our third period was our strongest, and we found a way to win.”
The win pushed the Stars (42-21-9) two points ahead of St. Louis and five points ahead of Chicago in the race for first place in the Central Division.
Tampa Bay (40-26-5) lost for the fifth time in the past six games (1-4-1).
“Extremely disappointing, especially the way we played for two periods,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “We walk in there for a 15-minute break and come out and play the way we did is, it’s a little puzzling, to be honest.”
The Lightning scored 12:15 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Andrej Sustr’s shot from distance hit Lightning forwards Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov before going in the net. The Stars tied it 1:45 later on a two-on-one rush when Spezza went to pass the puck and the Lightning ended up putting it in their own net.
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead with their first power-play goal since Feb. 28. Steven Stamkos scored off the rebound of a Kucherov shot at 3:15 of the second. The Stars tied it less than three minutes later when Sustr coughed up the puck in his own end, and Benn scored from the slot at the 5:42 mark of the second.
The Lightning regained the lead late in the second. After keeping Dallas pinned in its own end for an extended time, Alex Killorn centered the puck from the left wing and Stamkos tipped it past Lehtonen to make it a 3-2 game with 2:41 left in the period.
The Stars stepped up the pressure in the third and tied it at the 9:42 mark when Johns scored his first NHL goal, tallying off a blast from the right point with Tyler Seguin screening Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
"It was a bigger lift,” said Ruff. “If it would have been one of our other defensemen, it would have been a lift. But for a young guy like that to get his first, and for it to be that big a goal, I thought the building had a little extra in it for us.”
Benn tallied a little more than two minutes later to give Dallas the lead and the Stars held Tampa Bay to just one shot on goal the rest of the way to secure the win.
Stars forward Tyler Seguin suffered a cut to his leg late in the game. It appeared to happen with 22 seconds left when Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman’s skate caught Seguin on the leg. Seguin finished the game and then limped off to the locker room.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff did not reveal many details after the game.
“He got cut so we’ll know more tomorrow,” Ruff said.
The Stars honored former captain Brenden Morrow in a brief pre-game ceremony. Morrow announced his retirement from hockey during a press conference Thursday afternoon. The Stars played a video tribute to Morrow, who dropped the ceremonial first puck. Morrow received a standing ovation from fans at American Airlines Center. He received a second ovation during a TV timeout in the first period when the Stars played a second video tribute. The Stars also played video tributes from Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and former Stars coach and current St. Louis bench boss Ken Hitchcock.
*The Stars are 19-9-3 vs. the Eastern Conference.
*The Stars outshot the Lightning 33-20 and had a 58-54 advantage in shot attempts.
*Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa co-led the Stars with 6 shots on goal. Benn led the Stars with 9 shot attempts.
*Benn now has 36 goals on the season, establishing a new career-high.
*Cody Eakin registered three assists, setting a new career-high for assists in a game.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 0-1 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars had a streak of 21 straight penalty kills snapped.
*The Stars won 30 of 57 faceoffs (53 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 10 faceoffs (60 percent). Radek Faksa won 9 of 17 (53 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 15 (47 percent). Jason Spezza won 4 of 10 (40 percent).
*Kris Russell led the Stars with 27:18 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Sharp
Kris Russell – Alex Goligoski
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: John Klingberg (lower body), Jordie Benn (lower body), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Jason Demers (shoulder)
Scratched: Brett Ritchie, Travis Moen
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.