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5 Takeaways: Huberdeau's Hat Trick Not Enough as Panthers Fall to Preds

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/4/21 Post Game Interviews

2/4/21 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Aaron Ekblad

  • 01:20 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Jonathan Huberdeau's first career hat trick unfortunately wasn't enough.

Leading 5-3 with a little over two minutes left in the regulation, the Panthers surrendered two goals in quick succession before eventually falling 6-5 in overtime to the Predators at BB&T Center on Thursday.

Despite the loss, the Panthers (5-0-2) extended their season-opening point streak to seven games.

"I'm happy to get it out of the way, first [hat trick], but it would have been just nice to get a win tonight," said Huberdeau, who reached a new career-high with five points tonight. "I think we should've won that one, a tough one to lose. We're back it tomorrow, but a tough one tonight."

Kicking off his very productive night with a hard-fought goal, Huberdeau took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone before scoring off his backhand to give the Panthers at 1-0 lead just 1:28 into the game. Then, at 9:02, Filip Forsberg pulled the Predators back even with a timely power play goal to make it 1-1.

Just over a minute later, Huberdeau then managed to put the Panthers right back on top when he re-directed in a shot from Markus Nutivaara to make it 2-1 at 10:09. But, at 15:48, Calle Jarnkrok helped Nashville answer once again, burying a one-timer from right on the doorstep to tie the game up at 2-2.

With the Panthers starting the second period on the power play, Aleksander Barkov showed why he's considered one of the league's top players, deftly undressing a defender before sliding a pass through the crease to Aaron Ekblad for an easy tap-in goal to make it 3-2 just 54 seconds into the middle frame.

After Matt Duchene tied the game 3-3 at 6:50, Barkov regained the lead for Florida, taking a pass from Huberdeau and firing off a shot from a sharp angle on the power play to make it 4-3 at 8:01. Soon after, Huberdeau completed his first-career hat trick with a snipe from the slot to up the lead to 5-3 at 15:54.

Since his second goal of the game was initially credited to Nutivaara - and then later Patric Hornqvist - Huberdeau wasn't officially given permission to celebrate his first hat trick until the second intermission.

"I've had a lot of two-goal games, so it was good to get that first hat trick," Huberdeau said.

After pulling their goaltender in favor of the extra attacker with time ticking down in the third period, the Predators managed to cut their deficit down to 5-4 when Roman Josi scored with a blast from beyond the right circle at 17:54. Following a failed challenge by the Panthers on Josi's goal, Duchene then scored on the power play with 54 seconds left in regulation to make it 5-5 and force overtime.

At the 4-minute mark of the extra frame, Forsberg scored to give the Predators a 6-5 win.

Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne, who came into the game in relief of Saros to start the third period, combined to stop 31 of 36 shots for Nashville, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves for Florida.

"Obviously, a disappointing point," Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said. "When you give them two [points], it's big turnaround, a big swing. Definitely disappointed in the way things transpired. I think we can learn from it, but definitely disappointed."

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's overtime loss in Sunrise…

1. HUBERDEAU'S HUSSLE

If you were even just a bit late turning the game on, you probably missed this quick score.

Jumping on an errant pass in the neutral zone, Huberdeau skated in on Saros with a defender draped over his back before depositing a backhander to put the Panthers up 1-0 just 1:28 into the first period.

"He had it going," Quenneville said of Huberdeau. "I think he made several top plays. Good patience and great play on the first goal, protecting the puck, beating the goalie, and with the defensemen not being able to get to it. It got us started off right away."

Video: NSH@FLA: Huberdeau beats Saros with a backhander

After leading Florida with 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists) in 2019-20, Huberdeau has been up to his usual tricks on offense in the early goings of this season. Earning at least one point in five of seven games thus far, the 27-year-old winger currently leads the team in scoring with 12 points (four goals, eight assists).

2. WHO'S GOAL IS IT ANYWAY?

This was a great goal from Nutivaara… I mean Hornqvist… I mean Huberdeau.

Making it a 2-1 game at 10:09 of the first period, Florida's second goal of the game changed hands faster than depth defensemen at the NHL's trade deadline. That being said, it's no surprise that it took officials a bit longer than usual to sort through the replays and find out who had actually touched the puck last.

Upon further review, after Nutivaara let loose his shot from beyond the left circle, it actually caught a piece of Hornqvist before then hitting off Huberdeau and flying straight into the back of Nashville's net.

"I knew it hit me, the second [goal]," Huberdeau said. "It was just a matter of time, I guess."

Video: NSH@FLA: Huberdeau deflects home Nutivaara's shot

With an assist on the goal, Hornqvist now ranks third on the Panthers in points with eight (five goals, three assists). As for Nutivaara, who missed most of training camp while stuck on the unfit to play list, the 26-year-old defenseman has registered an assist in three of four games since entering the lineup.

3. EKBLAD TO THE BONE

Ekblad continues to pile up the points.

Sliding down to the right side of the net on the power play, Ekblad watched as Barkov dashed around a defender before sending the puck right onto this stick. With no one to beat but the goaltender, the 24-year-old defenseman then tapped in a goal to put Florida up 3-2 just 54 seconds into the second period.

Video: NSH@FLA: Ekblad buries Barkov's dish for PPG

Producing at nearly a point-per-game clip from the blue line, Ekblad has racked up six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games so far this season. Playing an important role in all situations, he's also been eating up key minutes for the Cats, leading the team with 25:49 of average ice time per tilt.

"Obviously, we would've liked to enjoy a different outcome," Ekblad said. "I thought we battled hard tonight and are looking forward to tomorrow."

In tonight's loss, Ekblad skated a game-high 26:35.

4. BARKOV MAKES HISTORY

The goal so nice it made history twice.

Back on the power play again in the second period, Barkov collected a pinpoint pass from Huberdeau and then sent a wicked shot past Saros from a sharp angle to put the Panthers back on top 4-3 at 8:01.

In addition to passing Scott Mellanby (157) for the 2nd-most goals in franchise history on the play, the 25-year-old center also broke a tie with Hall of Famer Pavel Bure for the 4th-most power play goals (44).

Video: NSH@FLA: Barkov finds twine with wrister

Taking his play to another level, this is arguably the best Barkov has ever looked. Even from up in the press box, you can sense his confidence and control in games. Adding a goal and an assist tonight, he now ranks second on the team in scoring with nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games.

"All we can do is get rest, get a good sleep, and come back tomorrow and fix those little things we needed to do better today," Barkov said. "We'll do them in the next game. It's two good teams playing against each other, so anything can happen. We just need to clean some things up."

5. SEND IN THE HATS

Huberdeau should probably receive a few hats in the mail after this.

In the 543rd game of his career, the franchise's all-time scoring leader finally checked another personal milestone off his list when he beat Saros with a rocket of a wrist shot from the slot to complete his first-career hat trick and put the Panthers on top 5-3 at 15:54 of the second period.

Prior to tonight's game, Huberdeau had scored two goals in a game on 19 separate occasions.

Video: NSH@FLA: Huberdeau beats Saros to complete hatty

"It's always a lot of fun to see him scoring and being confident on the ice," Barkov said of Huberdeau, his longtime friend and teammate. "He's one of the [most] skilled players in the league. When he's confident, he can do anything on the ice. I was really happy for him to finally get the hat trick."

Huberdeau's five points tonight were also a career-high and just one fewer than the franchise record.

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