TAMPA, Fla. – The Dallas Stars are playing like a team desperate to reach the post-season for the first time in six years. The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, have lost back-to-back home games since clinching their second playoff berth in seven seasons.
Jamie Benn had two goals and an assist Saturday night at Tampa Bay in a 5-2 victory that lifted Dallas past Phoenix into the second wild-card position in the Western Conference.
“We have a lot of games in a few days and we need to get as many points as we can in this stretch,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “This was very important.”
Tyler Seguin had his team-leading 35th goal and an assist, and Vernon Fiddler and Antoine Roussel also scored for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 shots.
Steven Stamkos and Andrej Sustr scored for the Lightning, and Ben Bishop finished with 23 saves.
Benn produced all of his points in the first period. He opened the scoring 40 seconds in, redirecting a shot by Alex Goligoski from along the right boards into the left side of the net.
“The first shift of the game can mean a lot,” Benn said. “You want to set the tempo right away and we got a quick goal.”
Benn struck again at the 5:37 mark, snapping a shot past Bishop from the right circle.
Two minutes later, Lightning defenceman Radko Gudas was dealt a match penalty for an illegal check to Roussel’s head. Dallas failed to capitalize on the five-minute major, but Benn and his brother Jordie set up Seguin late in the period to make it 3-0.
Tampa Bay responded with a pair of goals early in the second period. Stamkos scored two minutes in, and Sustr lifted a rebound past Lehtonen at 6:44 for his first NHL goal.
Fiddler and Roussel beat Bishop with backhanders in the third to secure the victory.
“We wanted to keep the pressure on them and came up in the third period strong,” Roussel said. “We needed to get the killer goal and take the life out of them.”
Bishop said the Lightning cannot afford to work hard for only 20 minutes.
“We’ve got to show up to play, and we’ve got something to play for,” he said. “It’s not like we just made the playoffs and now we can relax. We still want to get home ice, and we don’t want to be in the wild card.”
Tampa Bay is four points behind second-place Montreal in the Atlantic Division and five ahead of Eastern Conference wild-card leader Detroit.
“Hopefully this is out of our system and we can come down from our high chair after making the playoffs and realize that there are other teams that are coming and can catch us,” Stamkos said.
NOTES: Sustr was recalled from the AHL on Friday. … Tampa Bay D Mike Kostka missed his second game with a concussion that resulted in a three-game league suspension for Montreal D Douglas Murray. … Dallas LW Erik Cole (upper body) returned after being sidelined seven games. Stars LW Ray Whitney (lower body) sat out for the first time since Jan. 2. … During a pregame ceremony on the plaza, the Lightning unveiled a bronze statue depicting former captain Dave Andreychuk raising the 2004 Stanley Cup.