The Tampa Bay Lightning will be glad to see a team other than the Florida Panthers on the opposite side of the ice for a change.
On Thursday, the Panthers completed the three-game preseason sweep of the Lightning, downing the Bolts 5-2 at the BB&T Center. Florida beat Tampa Bay 4-2 on Sunday at AMALIE Arena and 4-2 on Tuesday in Sunrise before making it a perfect 3-0 against the Bolts behind a hat trick from Jared McCann.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, they'll see the Panthers soon enough as they open the regular season on Friday, October 6 at AMALIE Arena against the Cats and play them the following night in Sunrise in a home-and-home back-to-back series to start 2017-18.
The Lightning have dropped three straight in the preseason - all three defeats coming at the hands of the Panthers - after starting 2-1 and fall to 2-4-0 with one game remaining, Saturday at Nashville (8 p.m. Eastern puck drop).
Radim Vrbata supplied the first goal for Florida - the Panthers scored the opening goal in all three games - at 8:17 of the first period, and McCann doubled the lead to 2-0 at 14:24.
Alex Killorn netted his first goal of the preseason with 1:05 remaining in the first, redirecting Nikita Kucherov's hard centering feed from the right dot past James Reimer (34 saves) on the power play, the Bolts third power-play goal of the preseason. Kucherov and Steven Stamkos picked up the assists.
The Lightning finished the evening 1-for-4 on the power play.
McCann scored two more goals, one midway through the second period and another midway through the third to complete his hat trick and give Florida a 4-1 advantage. Vladislav Namestnikov brought the Bolts back within two goals following his strike with 1:24 to go. Mikhail Sergachev tallied his second assist and third point of the preseason on Namestnikov's goal and Kucherov also picked up an assist, his second of the game.
Kucherov paces the Lightning in the preseason for scoring (2-3--5) and is tied with Killorn, Stamkos and Matthew Peca for the Bolts' assist lead.
Colton Sceviour scored on the empty net for the 5-2 final.
Tampa Bay outshot Florida 36-32, including a 14-6 advantage in the third period. Kucherov and Andrej Sustr finished with a team-high four shots each. The Lightning outshot the Panthers in all three losses.
Peter Budaj played a full 60 minutes in net for the Bolts and finished with 28 saves on 32 shots.
Florida scored at least four goals in all three preseason meetings against the Lightning and outscored the Bolts 13-6 over the three games.