There’s no fooling Fleischmann.
Left wing Tomas Fleischmann, who has led the Panthers in scoring the past two years, is having a subpar season, and not even the goal he scored Thursday night — his first since Dec. 17 — can trick his mind into thinking that everything is suddenly fine.
Fleischmann, a 29-year-old native of the Czech Republic, now has six goals in 57 games, an average of one every 9.5 contests.
During the past two years with the Panthers, he had a combined total of 39 goals in 130 — an average of one every 3.3 games.
“My season is not that great,” said Fleischmann on Friday, one day before his Panthers start a three-game road trip in Columbus. “I’m used to playing better, providing more goals or scoring opportunities for other guys.
“It hasn’t gone as well as I expected.”
Fleischmann’s goal Thursday night — his first after 22 consecutive games without scoring — was good news for the Panthers, but it came in a 5-4 loss to the Washington Capitals.
And that didn’t sit well with Fleischmann, either.
“I wish we won the game,” said Fleischmann, who is tied for fifth on the team with 24 points, four behind leader Brad Boyes. “That would make it feel better than it does.”
Panthers coach Peter Horachek was much more upbeat when asked about Fleischmann’s performance against the Caps.
“I thought he was really good,” Horachek said. “That was one of his better games in a long time. He had good energy, good jump and good poise. He was bringing it.”
Two years ago, Fleischmann flourished with linemates Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg, but both have since departed.
Fleischmann is now on a line with winger Jesse Winchester and center Marcel Goc, both of whom earned assists on that slump-busting goal on Thursday.
Horachek called that rebuilt line a “positive” for the Panthers on Thursday. He also said he wanted to see Fleischmann play with that same energy going forward.
“When he plays like that, he’s going to score some goals,” Horachek said. “He is probably a little frustrated with his goal production — we all are.
“But you have to play to the max to get yourself out of that. There’s no way to pout or mope your way into scoring again.”
Horachek said that, during his slump, Fleischmann wasn’t focused enough on his “battle skills” away from the puck.
“I think he was pressing,” Horachek said. “He was concentrating on thinking: ‘I gotta score, I gotta score.’ And he should have been concentrating on: ‘I gotta work, I gotta work.’ ”
Horachek expressed confidence in Fleischmann, praising his winger’s hands, shot and overall skill.
“[On Thursday’s] goal, a lot of the work was done by Winchester going into the corner. But [Fleischmann] goes to a spot and is ready to shoot. He doesn’t stick-handle or try to do something else. He just shoots it right away.”
Fleischmann said his “pressing” attitude, given his lack of production, was almost inevitable.
“It’s always there,” he said of those thoughts. “You work hard over the summer, and you want the season to go well. And if it doesn’t, it kind of beats you down.
“This is the first time I’ve faced this. I have to learn to forget about things behind me and just focus on the next game.”
Just a few seconds after Fleischmann said that, however, he showed hard hard forgetting can be for a professional player who takes such pride in his work.
“I didn’t even help to win that hockey game,” said Fleischmann after the conversation had seemingly moved away from Thursday’s loss. “[My goal] doesn’t feel anything special.”