Prospects Lead Lightning to Preseason Win

It’s Adam Erne’s world; we’re all just living in it.

Playing in his first NHL game, Erne scored twice in regulation and again in the shootout to lift the Lightning to a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener.

The Lightning came out somewhat guarded in the first period at Orlando’s Amway Center, managing just two shots in the first period while spending six minutes killing penalties. One of those penalties was a shoulder by Erne to the head of Vladimir Sobotka, who left the game and didn’t return.

St. Louis struck first when Dmitrij Jaskin scored on a wraparound that went of Slater Koekkoek’s skate and by goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. They extended their lead to 3-0 in the second period when Jaskin scored off a JT Brown turnover against Desjardins, then Jaden Schwartz greeted Latvian prospect Kristers Gudlevskis with a wrist shot into the top corner.

“Start[ed] a little bit nervous, first shot on goal it can’t be worse,” Gudlevskis said after making his North American debut. “But I need[ed] to start playing; stop thinking and just [focus on] stopping the puck.”

Gudlevskis settled down and the Lightning got on the board with just over a minute left in the second period, much to the delight of the 6,000-plus in attendance. Mark Barberio let a wrist shot go from the blue line, which Erne deflected from the crease over Brian Elliott’s glove.

Tampa Bay came to life in the third period and drew within a goal when prospect Cedric Paquette found Erne alone in front from the sideboards. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Erne was open for “3-4 seconds” calling for the puck before Paquette found him. Erne stopped the puck while facing Paquette, then made a move around Elliott to slide it home.

Veteran Tom Pyatt tied the game mid-way through the final period, scoring off a sharp angle wrist shot after beating a defenseman wide off the rush.

The Lightning continued to press, but it took some key saves from Gudlevskis late in regulation for the Bolts to force overtime. Gudlevskis was big again in the extra session, helping kill off a penalty. He was 2 for 2 in the shootout.

“I really like shootout, it’s like [a] challenge,” Gudlevskis said. “You can win and you can lose – it’s nice.”

Valtteri Filppula gave the Lightning the lead in the shootout with a quick deke then high shot to Elliott’s blocker side.

Chris Stewart, the Blues’ second shooter, shot over the net though it appeared Gudlevskis may have gotten his glove on the shot. He said he thought he got a piece of it but wasn’t 100 percent sure.

Stewart’s miss after Gudlevskis stopped Ty Rattie set up Erne for his heroics.

Earlier this summer Erne scored twice in the same shootout to propel Team USA to a win over Finland in pre-World Junior Championship action. USA coaches said Erne requested to take an extra shot in Lake Placid, site of the tournament.

On Wednesday, Erne calmly skated down the middle of the ice and froze with the puck on his stick for a moment before roofing a forehand to seal the win. He was named first star for his efforts.

The Lightning’s second rounder from this summer’s draft keeps earning himself more time with the Lightning. Erne is expected to eventually go back to QMJHL Quebec, which is two games into its season, but it’s looking like he could at least return to the Remparts with an NHL contract in his back pocket.