The re-education of Evgeny Artyukhin continues.
The 25-year-old Russian has confounded two Lightning administrations since being drafted in the third round in 2001. He has played well in bursts, been frustrating in spells, been scratched, chastised, cajoled and speculated about.
But for three consecutive games, which coincide with the team's win streak, he has not only been what interim coach Rick Tocchet calls — in complimentary terms — a "menace," but an offensive contributor. That makes the 6-foot-4, 254-pound right wing a commodity. Now if only he continues to realize and exploit it.
"I try every game to bring something, actually physical stuff," he said. "Sometimes, it's really hard."
Artyukhin has goals in consecutive games and three this season. But Tocchet has been more impressed with the edge he has displayed — six hits in 8:03 of ice time Friday and three in 13:16 on Saturday, both wins over Florida — and admits there is sometimes frustration in trying to cultivate what he believes can be a great player.
"There's a difference between him being a guy that can make a lot of money in this league and be a valuable player to his team and a guy who's in and out of the lineup," Tocchet said. "If he can somehow figure that out — and we're trying every day with him — he's going to be a hell of a hockey player."
POWER DOWN: The power play continued to falter. A 1-for-6 on Saturday left it 4-for-49 in the past 11 games. It scored just once — by Artyukhin — on three five-on-threes that encompassed 2:47 in the first period.
That failure, combined with what Tocchet saw as a lack of killer instinct, helped the Panthers get back in the game on Saturday. They scored twice within 26 seconds (one on a five-on-three) to tie it at 3.
"It's really, really frustrating we're not scoring on five-on-threes," said Tocchet, whose team has two goals in 12 five-on-threes. "(There have been) four or five games where if we score the goal, we win. We let Florida get back in the game 3-3. We should have stamped them out and gotten the (fourth) goal."
PICK-ME-UP: A busy intersection cleared in front of the Panthers goal with six seconds left in the second Saturday, allowing Vinny Lecavalier to grab a puck out of the air, place it down and past goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Credit Ryan Malone with some of the traffic control as he rushed through the crease to crash into the lone Panther with a chance to make a play. Nice pick.
"It's easier to score if no one is in front of the goal," Malone said smiling.