Game, set and preseason match. Jared McCann notched a hat trick as the Florida Panthers roll to a third straight victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-2 win at the BB&T Center on Thursday night.
Radim Vrbata opened the scoring with his second of the preseason 8:17 into the first period when he broke in on Peter Budaj from the left wing and converted. The lone assist went to Brandon Pirri, who is trying to secure a contract with his former team.
McCann added to the lead 6:07 later when he pumped home the rebound of Alex Petrovic’s bouncing shot from the point. Ian McCoshen drew the second assist on the play.
The Lightning’s Alex Killorn halved the deficit with a power-play marker with 1:05 left in the frame. Killorn’s deflection goal was set up by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos and came with McCoshen off for slashing.
McCann solved Budaj for the second time at 13:32 of the second period. Jamie McGinn got the only helper, thanks to some nice work on the forecheck.
The 20-year-old forward completed his hat trick midway through the third when he beat Budaj with a wrist shot from between the circles while on breakaway. Connor Brickley and Vrbata were credited with the assists on McCann fourth goal of the preseason.
Valdislav Namestnikov scored a late goal, from Mikhail Sergachev and Kucherov, before Colton Sceviour was credited with an empty-net goal that Tampa Bay actually shot into its own net via a strange bounce off the boards.
James Reimer went the distance and made 34 saves to get the win. Budaj turned away 28 of the 32 he shots he faced in the loss.
The Panthers (4-0-1) will finish off the preseason slate tonight in Montreal before opening the regular season on October 6, versus, you guessed it... the Tampa Bay Lightning.