"Obviously, we would've liked to enjoy a different outcome," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "I thought we battled hard tonight and are looking forward to tomorrow."
Jonathan Huberdeau led the charge for the Panthers on offense last night with a career-high five points, including netting the first hat trick of his career in his 543rd NHL game. Prior to that, the 27-year-old winger has come very close on several occasions, scoring two goals 19 times.
After leading the Panthers with 78 points in 2019-20, Huberdeau has come out of the gate hot again this season. Earning at least one point in five of seven games - including three multi-point performances - he currently leads the team in scoring with 12 points (four goals, eight assists).
"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, whose five points were just one off a franchise record. "I think we should've won that one, a tough one to lose. We're back it tomorrow, but a tough one tonight."
Not to be lost in Huberdeau's scoring spree, Aleksander Barkov also reached a pair of major milestones against the Predators. With an electric power-play goal in the second period, the 25-year-old center not only passed Scott Mellanby (157) for the second-most goals in franchise history, but also broke a tie with Hall of Famer Pavel Bure for fourth in power-play goals (44).
Trailing only Huberdeau on the team, Barkov has tallied nine points (three goals, six assists).
"Take those little things you needed to do better to the next game and we're going to be fine," the Panthers captain said following last night's loss to Nashville. "We had two good teams playing against each other, anything can happen. We've just got to clean some things up."
With a chance to push his own point streak to four games, Chris Driedger is likely to be between the pipes for the Panthers tonight. In three games this season, the 26-year-old goaltender has been fantastic, going 2-0-1 behind a 1.95 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
Having fond memories against the Predators, the only other time Driedger faced Nashville was when he turned aside all 27 shots he faced in a 3-0 win in his first NHL start on Nov. 30, 2019.
"I feel good," Driedger said after his last start, a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sunday. "Every game under your belt is just a little more confidence in your back pocket. My approach has just been going out there and trying to enjoy it. It's been a lot of fun. We've been playing great as at team."
Across the ice, Filip Forsberg is red-hot heading into tonight's rematch after tying a franchise record with five points in Game 1, including beating Sergei Bobrovsky for the game-winner in overtime. Matt Duchene (twice), Calle Jarnkrok and Roman Josi also lit the lamp in the victory.
Thanks to that breakout game, Forsberg now leads the team in scoring with 11 points (six goals, five assists). Not far beneath him, Viktor Arvidsson ranks second with seven points (two goals, five assists), while Mikael Granlund sits in third with six points (three goals, three assists).
"It was a great comeback," Forsberg said after the win, just Nashville's third in its last eight games. "We're working really hard. Obviously had to battle back in the third and we did that."
The Predators have to yet to name a starter tonight, but it wouldn't be surprising if Pekka Rinne gets the nod. Coming into last night's game in relief of Juuse Saros, who had given up five goals at that point, to start the third period, he turned aside all 12 shots he faced to collect the victory.
In five appearances this season, Rinne owns a 2-2-0 record with a 2.97 goals-against average and .885 save percentage. In his career against Florida, however, the 38-year-old veteran has been quite effective, going 6-4-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
"He never ceases to amaze you," Predators coach John Hynes said of Rinne. "He made some big saves. We were kind of pushing and pressing and chasing the game, and they had some quality chances. For him to come in and play the way he played, he held the fort for us. And it allowed us to be able to get up and get going and get moving."
Itching to get back at it, the Panthers will look to bounce back with a big win at home tonight. "Definitely disappointed in the way things transpired [last night]," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we can learn from it."
FLA: 5-0-2, 12 PTS
NSH: 5-5-0, 10 PTS
FLA all-time vs. NSH: 15-9-3-6
-- Aaron Ekblad has posted six points (three goals, three assists) and ranks fifth in the NHL in average ice time per game (25:57) through seven contests. In 12 career games against Nashville, the 24-year-old defenseman has notched seven points (three goals, four assists).
-- Patric Hornqvist enters tonight's tilt riding a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists). In the midst of his first season with the Panthers, the 34-year-old forward ranks first on the team in goals (tied-5) and power-play goals (3), while also being tied for third in power-play points (3).
-- Carter Verhaeghe is tied for first on Florida in goals (5) and tied for fourth in points (7). All five of the 25-year-old goals have been scored at even-strength, which leads all Panthers skaters.
-- Keith Yandle enters tonight's matchup on a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists). In seven games this season, the 34-year-old leads Florida's defensemen in scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists). He also ranks second on the team in power-play points with six.
-- Anthony Duclair is tied for second on the Panthers with six assists.
-- Radko Gudas leads the Panthers in hits (32); Noel Acciari has the most blocked shots (11).
-- The Panthers rank third in the league on the power play with a 39.1 percent success rate.
PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau - Alex Wennberg - Patric Hornqvist
Frank Vatrano - Eetu Luostarinen - Brett Connolly
Aleksi Heponiemi - Juho Lammikko - Noel Acciari
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Markus Nutivaara - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas
Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Noah Juulsen
Taxi Squad: Owen Tippett, Mason Marchment, Ryan Lomberg, Kevin Connauton, Philippe Desrosiers
- Feb. 3: F Owen Tippett was assigned to Florida's taxi squad.
- Jan. 30: F Aleksi Heponiemi and F Owen Tippett were added to Florida's active roster, while F Ryan Lomberg was assigned to the taxi squad.
- Jan. 30: D Gustav Forsling was placed on the injured reserve list.
- 50/50 Raffle
- A limited number of fans will be admitted to BB&T Center for home games this season. Learn about the health and safety precautions that have been taken as a part of the "Red Reminders" program presented in conjunction with Baptist Health South Florida at FloridaPanthers.com/RedReminders.
- Mobile Ordering is now available at BB&T Center for Panthers games. Visit FloridaPanthers.com/MobileOrdering for all the info.
HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN
When: Friday, Feb. 5, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: BB&T Center
TV: FOX Sports Florida
Stream: FOX Sports GO
Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 107.9 FM /1370 AM WZTA (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM 220 / Streaming 932
Pre-Game Listen: Check out the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast featuring rookie Aleksi Heponiemi!