The Panthers on Friday picked up three draft picks, two forwards … but no points.
Florida led 1-0 entering the third but then allowed four consecutive goals as the visiting Nashville Predators prevailed 4-1.
Roberto Luongo, who made 22 saves, took the loss. Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only Panthers goal, and it came on a second-period power play.
Even so, the Panthers’ power play went just 1-for-6. That unit entered the game ranked third in the NHL, making this an off night for a team that cannot afford such performances.
The Panthers (20-21-8) had their three-game win streak snapped. Chalk it up to rust as this was their first game in 10 days. But the Panthers are 11 points out of a playoff berth with five teams to leapfrog to get into position.
As for Huberdeau, it was his 13th goal of the season and his 50th point in 49 games.
About six hours before Friday’s game started, the Panthers made a major trade, sending forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to the Pittsburgh Penguins for centers Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan. Brassard and Sheahan are scheduled to make their Panthers debuts on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Panthers also got three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft: a second-rounder and two fourth-rounders. In addition, the Panthers received salary-cap relief since the contracts of Brassard and Sheahan will expire this summer.
“It’s never easy,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said when asked about trading a player such as Bjugstad, who was Florida’s first-round pick in 2010 and has been a franchise regular since the 2013-2014 season.
“But we got two key players who can help us in the stretch run. We also got help us in the draft and freed up space for an aggressive summer [in free agency].”
Tallon said getting those three items — help now, help this summer and help down the road when those draft picks arrive — “was like a hat trick for us.”
Tallon, who started talking to the Penguins one month ago, didn’t rule out the possibility of flipping Brassard and/or Sheahan before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
“Our performance [as a team] will decide that,” Tallon said. “We have a lot of home games over the next three weeks.” Bjugstad didn’t live up to that level of consistency, in Tallon’s estimation.
Bjugstad posted 16 goals and 38 points in his rookie year and followed that up with a career-high 24 goals in 2014-2015.
Last season, he played all 82 games, scored 19 goals and produced a career-best 49 points. This season, he had just seven goals and 12 points in 32 games. “He’s had some good years and some not so good years,” Tallon said of Bjugstad.
“He’s had nagging injuries. Overall, he’s had a pretty solid career. [But] we were expecting more.”
Brassard, 31, peaked with 27 goals and 58 goals with the New York Rangers in 2015-2016. He dipped to 39 and 46 points, respectively, the next two years and has nine goals and 15 points this season.
Sheahan, 27, has not been as prolific — he scored a career-high 14 goals in 2015-2016. This season, he has seven goals and nine points.
In Friday’s game, after an evenly played and scoreless first period, Florida finally got on the board with 15:15 gone in the second. Huberdeau’s power-play goal from the left circle was enabled by Aleksander Barkov’s excellent screen.
Huberdeau took a pass from Keith Yandle and scored on the near side as Barkov skipped out of the way of the puck. The goal was set up by a penalty on Viktor Arvidsson, called for slashing on Yandle.
The Predators put up just three shots in the first 14 minutes of the third period — but all three of those shots went in, crushing the Panthers.
Viktor Arvidsson, who had two goals on the night, scored an empty-netter with 1:56 left to put the game away. He has 21 goals this season, including seven in his past six games.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Troy Brouwer and Micheal Haley played on Friday but will likely be healthy scratches on Saturday, when Brassard and Sheahan arrive.
▪ The Panthers also sent defenseman Bogdan Kiselevich back to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. That was part of a flurry of moves in which the Panthers also recalled three players from Springfield: forward Jayce Hawryluk and defensemen Josh Brown and Ian McCoshen. Brown and McCoshen were Florida’s third pairing on defense on Friday.
▪ The Panthers also placed forward Jamie McGinn on waivers.