Brayden Point of the Lightning scores past Igor Shesterkin of the...

Brayden Point of the Lightning scores past Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers during the second period at Amalie Arena on Thursday in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Carlson

TAMPA, Fla. — If the playoffs started right now, Rangers vs. Lightning would be a first-round matchup.

And if that series were to go anything like Thursday night’s game, the Rangers would have their hands full.

Brayden Point scored a hat trick and had six points as the Lightning, currently holding the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, rallied from a two-goal first-period deficit to beat the Rangers, 6-3, at Amalie Arena and end their winning streak at three games.

Point’s second goal, a four-on-four effort at 3:41 of the third period, tied it at 3-3. Jack Roslovic’s first goal as a Ranger had given the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead at 1:48 of the third. Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal put the Lightning ahead at 12:45 and Point’s third goal, at 14:48, provided insurance.

Nikita Kucherov, battling with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon for the league’s scoring lead, had an empty-net goal with 3:38 remaining and five points.

“It’s been going pretty good, and we were able to stack a few wins,’’ Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “But you don’t give up leads like that.’’

“We didn’t come out with the same energy [in the second period] I think we had in the first,’’ Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck said. “And even in the second [period], I think the first 10 minutes we had energy, and then we kind of let up on that and then got a little bit too loose defensively. And they have a lot of skill up front over there, so they’re going to capitalize on their opportunities.’’

The Rangers seemed in control after getting first-period goals from Artemi Panarin and Braden Schneider and taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. They still led by that score when center Mika Zibanejad was hit in the face with a puck shot by Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak that deflected off Zibanejad’s stick, forcing him to head to the locker room for treatment.

Not long after Zibanejad left, Point scored his first goal. Anthony Duclair scored late in the second period to tie it at 2-2.

Zibanejad returned at the start of the third period, wearing a full face shield, and on his first shift back, the Rangers went ahead 3-2 at 1:48 on Roslovic’s goal. But Point’s second goal tied it at 3:41.

Coach Peter Laviolette was asked if losing Zibanejad for the amount of time they did changed the momentum for the Rangers.

“Yeah, there was definitely some disruption in the game of things that you know, kind of derailed us a little bit, and we didn’t get back on track the way we needed to quick enough,’’ Laviolette said. “Losing him for a little bit, that certainly [played a part]. His line was playing well.’’

“He’s a pretty important player,’’ said Kreider, Zibanejad’s linemate. “He should be a perennial Selke candidate every single year. He does everything for us. So yeah, if he’s not getting going over the wall almost every other shift, we miss him.’’

Zibanejad wasn’t the only Ranger who was forced to leave after getting hit with a puck. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren left with 13:00 left in the third after being hit high with a shot. Lindgren did return, but outside the Rangers’ locker room after the game, he was bleeding from his forehead.

Goaltender Igor Shesterkin, coming off two consecutive shutouts, made it seven straight periods without allowing a goal before Point stole the puck from Jonny Brodzinski at the Rangers’ blue line and started a give-and-go with Kucherov that ended in his goal at 12:41 of the second to cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1. That was 1:17 after Zibanejad left the game.

Tampa Bay tied it on Duclair’s goal at 18:43 after Shesterkin (22 saves) went well out of his crease to make a save on a shot by Point and couldn’t cover the rebound. The puck ended up getting knocked out to Duclair in the right circle, and he popped it into the vacant net for his 18th goal.

More Rangers

ONE-DAY SALE26¢ for 5 6 months