TAMPA — Erik Cernak had a career first Monday after three years in the NHL.
The Lightning defenseman has skated in 46 playoff games, won a Stanley Cup and taken 69 shots this postseason. Now, he has his first career playoff goal.
In the Lightning’s 5-1 win in Game 1, Brayden Point intercepted a pass in the defensive zone early in the first period. He spotted Cernak along the right wall and passed him the puck.
As Cernak skated through the neutral zone, he passed to Ondrej Palat. The Lightning wing skated to the left faceoff circle and returned the puck to Cernak racing down the slot toward Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
Palat put the puck on Cernak’s stick, and Cernak redirected it into the net to open the scoring.
Cernak’s immediate reaction on the ice said it all.
“I just tried to get the puck in the zone,” Cernak said. “(Nikita Kucherov) did a great job to skate straight to the net to take the defense from me, and I just tipped the puck. It was pretty good, and I was glad we got the first goal, really good start there.”
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