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Lightning's Peca continues to make his case to stay

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (73) on the ice making his NHL debut during warmups before taking on the Winnipeg Jets at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (01/03/17).
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (73) on the ice making his NHL debut during warmups before taking on the Winnipeg Jets at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (01/03/17).
Published Jan. 4, 2017

TAMPA — One game after earning his first NHL point with a nifty pass to set up an Alex Killorn goal, Matthew Peca found the net himself Tuesday, whistling a shot past Jets G Connor Hellebuyck from the right circle for his first NHL goal.

"Every game he plays he's making it tougher to send him down when guys come back," coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning's 6-4 loss.

Peca's goal at 3:43 of the second period briefly tied it at 1.

"It was a good breakout, a good pass by (Vladislav Namestnikov)," Peca said. "I didn't think I'd have that much room. I told myself if I had that much space I'd just shoot it. That was mindset going in the entire time, constant daylight on the left side. It all worked out."

The Jets, though, scored the first of their three second-period goals less than a minute after Peca scored.

"It was good at the time," he said, "but right after the goal it seemed like the beginning of why we lost. A little bit frustrating."

CALLAHAN RETURNS: The biggest ovation during the pregame introductions was reserved for F Ryan Callahan, who played his first game since Nov. 27.

"It's huge for our team," Killorn said. "He's a guy we look to for that competitive edge."

"You miss him sacrificing his body, putting it on the line every opportunity, whether it be a hit or blocked shot," Tyler Johnson added. "That really rubs off on everybody. You see that he's laying everything on the line, so you need to do it as well."

Callahan missed 15 games because of pain in his surgically repaired hip.

"It felt like I missed 15 games," Callahan said. "For myself, I'll chalk it up as the first one back. I got to be better than I was tonight, hopefully get that one out of the way and now I can move forward."

Callahan received 11 minutes, 20 seconds of ice time spread over 18 shifts. He was minus-2.

He said he returns without restrictions, meaning he can forecheck and throw his body around on the penalty kill.

"It's the only way I'm going to come back is if I'm able to do that," Callahan said. "Everything feels good. Nothing is limiting me, so I should be able to play the way I want to."

WELCOME KID: LW Adam Erne hopped over the boards at 2:27 of the first period, stepping on the ice for the first time as an NHL player.

"I feel I'm ready," he said before the game with the Jets.

Erne played 17 shifts and saw time on the power play.

The Lightning's second pick (33rd overall) in the 2013 draft, Erne was recalled Sunday because of the lower body injury to C Brian Boyle. Cooper said he wasn't comfortable saying Boyle could return Thursday against visiting Nashville.

PACQUETTE UPDATE: C Cedric Paquette (lower body) skated Tuesday for the first time in a week and said he is hoping to play Thursday. He missed his sixth game Tuesday.