Entering tonight's matchup, the Panthers (23-23-8) had been on a 6-2-0 run, with all six of those wins coming against teams currently holding a playoff spot, including an exciting 5-4 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in overtime on Saturday night.
"We don't have much of a choice, obviously," said Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We've got a lot of important games coming up here. It's a disappointing result tonight for our club. We'll turn the page tomorrow and get ready for a big game on Tuesday [against the Dallas Stars]."
Playing in their third game in four nights, the Panthers struggled to find their footing in the first period against the Lightning, falling behind 1-0 after the first 20 minute. But in the second, the game really opened up, with both teams trading goals to make it a 3-2 game after two periods.
Florida finished the middle frame with a 17-3 advantage over Tampa in shots on goal.
"It was one of the best second periods we've had of the year," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "We've been saying it for a while: We've liked our composure no matter what happens. We've liked our compete. I thought we were the better team in the second period.
"You could tell in the beginning of the game that I thought we looked sluggish, but we found another level, which is important to see. It wasn't good enough tonight, but there's some good things this week. We've just got to sort of forget about today and come Tuesday ready to work."
After allowing three goals on 12 shots, Panthers goaltender James Reimer was relieved in net by Luongo to start the third period. Luongo went on to make nine saves as the Lightning potted a pair of power-play goals - including a 5-on-3 chance - in the final frame to secure the 5-2 win.
The Panthers finished the night with a 27-23 advantage in shots on goal.
"We have to [move on]," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Of course, it happens. We don't want this to happen. We played against a really good team, back-to-back. We just need to forget this game and move forward."
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's loss in Sunrise…
1. YOU GO, VATRANO!
When the game's at even strength, Frank Vatrano has an advantage.
The 24-year-old winger netted his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night, taking a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and firing a powerful one-timer from the slot that beat Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue to cut Tampa's lead down to 2-1 at 13:11 of the second period.
Video: TBL@FLA: Vatrano notches goal off Huberdeau's feed
"I think we've just got to play like that the entire game," Vatrano said of the second period. "We were kind of gripping our sticks a little bit too tight there in the beginning and wasn't making the plays that were there. I think as the game went on we were holding onto the puck a lot more and that's why we were creating more offense. If we can start like that every game we'll be fine."
Of Vatrano's career-high 19 goals this season, a team-leading 18 have come at even strength.
2. MALGIN MAKES IT HAPPEN
No matter where he's deployed, Denis Malgin has a knack for making things happen.
Centering the fourth line on Sunday night, the 22-year-old netted his sixth goal of the season, settling down a loose puck in the right circle before firing a laser past Domingue and into the net to get the Panthers within one goal at 3-2 with 1:10 remaining on the clock in the second period.
The timely goal came just 59 seconds after Ryan Callahan put the Lighting up 3-1.
Video: TBL@FLA: Malgin sends wrister past Domingue
Lending a helping hand on Malgin's goal was Riley Sheahan, who used his 6-foot-3, 214-pound frame to blind Domingue with a colossal screen. Sheahan, who was acquired in a multi-player deal with Pittsburgh last week, also picked up an assist on the play, his third since the trade.
3. LUONGO KEEPS CLIMBING
Luongo only played a period on Sunday night, but it was enough to make history.
A future Hall of Famer, the 39-year-old took the ice for his 1,030th time of his career, breaking a tie with Patrick Roy for the second-most games ever played by a goaltender in NHL history. As it stands now, Martin Brodeur holds the all-time record, playing in 1,266 career NHL contests.
"I don't feel like talking about that much right now, to be honest with you," Luongo said. "All I care about is winning games and trying to get into the playoffs. Milestones are for another day."
Luongo has posted a 4-1-0 record over his last five decisions.
4. SCEVIOUR SIDELINED
The Panthers suffered a tough loss before the puck even dropped on Sunday night.
Injured during Saturday night's overtime win against the Capitals, Colton Sceviour is expected to be sidelined for multiple games. To make matters worse, the 29-year-old forward had been playing some of his best hockey as of late, lighting the lamp in each of the last two games.
"He's still being assessed today," Boughner said during his media availability prior to tonight's contest. "It's for sure upper-body, and we'll know more [soon]. He's not going to play, probably, for a while. It's a tough injury."
While his offensive numbers had been ticking upward in recent games, Sceviour's loss will be felt the most on the penalty kill, where the veteran has logged a team-leading 32:32 of ice time while shorthanded in the 17 games leading up to tonight's matchup against the Lightning.
In that span, Florida's had the second-best kill in the league, going 33 for 35 (94.4 percent).
"I thought he was playing his best hockey, probably, in the last week or two," Boughner said of Sceviour, who has 14 points in 49 games. "It's sad to see for him, but I think for our team more."
5. McGINN GETS THE CALL
With Sceviour heading to the injured reserve list, the Panthers have called up Jamie McGinn.
McGinn, who has been out of the lineup since undergoing back surgery in mid-September, returned to the ice just under a month ago. The 30-year-old winger was loaned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Mass. on Feb. 1, registering two goals and two assists in four contests.
"He hasn't played in a long time," Boughner said. "He went down [to the AHL] for some conditioning and really played well in Springfield. He put some points on the board and he got engaged physically. I talked to him the other day and he said his back feels good."
A veteran of nearly 600 NHL games, McGinn tallied 13 goals and 16 assists in 76 games last season -- his first as a member of the Panthers. Boughner said that although McGinn didn't suit up on Sunday, there is a chance that he will make his season debut on Tuesday against Dallas.
"He's worked hard since his surgery," Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. "He battled through it, went down [to the AHL], and now he's back up. I think he's going to be a big part of our team."