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Artyukhin Comes Through // Tampa Tribune
Nov. 2--TAMPA -- Evgeny Artyukhin spoke to his brother Sergei, who lives in Moscow, early Saturday morning to wish his sibling a happy 32nd birthday. As a present, Sergei asked his brother to score a goal for him.
While Artyukhin won't be credited with an official goal, the puck he did plant into the Ottawa net carried meaning on several levels.
First, his shootout winner in the eighth round provided Tampa Bay with a 3-2 victory against the Senators, capping a third-period comeback. It also served as a just reward for a job well done by the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Russian winger who did everything but score as he collected eight shots on goal and registered six hits in his 16 minutes of ice time.
And it allowed Artyukhin to tell his brother that, yes indeed, he scored a goal on his brother's birthday.
"I tried all game to score for him, so when I got the breakout, I thought about how I had to score to give him his present," Artyukhin said.
Artyukhin also allowed Tampa Bay to extend its winning streak to three games as the Lightning have now won four of their past five and picked up points in seven of eight. It also moves the Lightning to within a point of the division lead despite starting the season winless in the first five games.
Once again it was Mike Smith who kept Tampa Bay in the game early -- and late -- to give the Lightning a chance. Smith finished Saturday with 29 saves and stopped six of eight Senators in the shootout to improve his record to 3-2-3 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.07.
Asked if there were any other adjectives to describe the play of the Lightning's netminder, Coach Barry Melrose stated the obvious.
"Did you use really good? Have you used that one yet?" Melrose said. "There are not many better goaltenders in the game going right now than Mike Smith."
Smith came up with a couple of dazzling glove saves, including one on Dean McAmmond who skated through the crease with the puck and tried to lift a backhander over a prone Smith, who flashed his glove out and snared the puck at 6:34 of the first period. He also stoned Daniel Alfredsson on a 3-on-2.
"I just try to make the saves when the boys need me," Smith said.
Defenseman Matt Carle made Smith's performance worthwhile when he scored his first goal since Dec. 29, 2007, with a wrist shot from the top of the left slot with 6:12 left in the game to tie the score and help Tampa Bay earn its first victory in four games this season when entering the third period trailing.
"I think if this was the team that started the season, we might have folded up and called it a night a couple of times," Melrose said. "Nothing was coming easy, we made some good plays but their goaltender was coming up with the saves. It was a gut-check time."
But when it came time to look down the bench and send somebody over the boards with the shootout, it was Melrose who used his gut feeling to call on Artyukhin, who beat Alex Auld with a quick shot through the five-hole.
"I just had a feeling about Arty," Melrose said. "Arty had a good game, he had a lot of chances, he was flying. I just looked down there and saw that great big jersey No. 76 and I sort of thought of the bicentennial and said let's put the big guy out there."
Artyukhin was glad to deliver.
"I just tried to keep things simple," Artyukhin said. "I was watching the goalie and when other guys weren't getting anything with moves, I would just try to shoot it."
And score a present for Sergei.