Adam Erne's first NHL goal shows growing comfort with Lightning

Published March 5 2017
Updated March 5 2017

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rookie C Adam Erne was surprised he was so wide open in the slot for his first NHL goal Friday.

"I'm not sure where everybody was," he said.

Erne, 21, credited linemate Cedric Paquette for a tenacious forecheck, getting the puck off the wall to Vladislav Namestnikov in the left circle. All Erne had to do was convert a one-timer from point-blank range against the Penguins.

Erne, who received the milestone puck after the game, was the third Lightning player to notch his first goal this season. "It was obviously exciting," he said. "Nice to get on the board."

Erne's goal was another indication of how he has settled in during his second callup from AHL Syracuse. At 6 feet 1, 214 pounds, he provides desired size up front, with the Lightning even putting him on the power play, a role opened by last week's trade of Brian Boyle.

"It feels like I belong here," he said. "The first couple games, there was a lot going on, nerves. I feel more relaxed, comfortable."

Erne believes that comfort shows "everywhere" on the ice: With how I am on the puck, the systems. Just a matter of being calm out there, playing fast, playing physical, and just knowing what you're doing is right."

Crosby on Kucherov

Wing Nikita Kucherov is in his best scoring stretch of the season, his power-play goal Friday against Pittsburgh giving him a goal in five straight games, a career best. "He's on fire," wing Ondrej Palat said.

The streak ended in Saturday's 2-1 shootout win against the Sabres, but Kucherov had an assist to bring his point total to seven goals and seven assists in his past six games. The key has been his aggressiveness. Kucherov has 36 in his past seven games.

"He's really dangerous," Penguins star Sidney Crosby said. "He's got a great shot. His speed really puts everyone back on their heels. He's got that knack for scoring big goals. The way he plays, he's able to kind of turn what looks like a nothing play into a really good chance."

By the numbers

Wing Nikita Kucherov is on pace for a career year. His stats through 56 games each of the past three seasons:

2014-15: 21 goals, 27 assists, 48 points, 134 shots

2015-16: 23/25/48/145

2016-17: 28/34/62/188