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Erne makes the difference for U.S.

by Adam Kimelman / Tampa Bay Lightning

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- As the United States and Finland went to a shootout Thursday, U.S. coach Don Lucia was hoping one of his players would stand up and make a difference.

Adam Erne stood up.

"He said, 'Who wants to go.' and no one said anything so I said, 'I'll go,'" Erne said of Lucia. "Every time he said 'Who wants to go,' and he looked at me and gave me the nod and I kept going."

After scoring the game-tying goal in regulation, Erne scored twice in the shootout, tying the game with a goal in the sixth round and then getting the winner in the seventh round of what ended as a 4-3 victory for the United States.

"I like having the puck," said Erne, a second-round pick (No. 33) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL Draft. "It's kind of the only reason I was able to go, because I said I wanted to go. I'm sure anyone could have gone out there and done it, but I'm glad it was me."

Producing offense is nothing new for Erne, who had 28 goals and 72 points in 68 games with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. But the American team was looking for any of its forwards to step up offensively.

"Everybody, on their own team, is the guy everyone looks to," Erne said. "Everyone here is an unbelievable player. To be able to step up on team like this is confidence-boosting. Hopefully it's something that opens everyone's eyes."

Thursday it was Erne, who scored a power-play goal 1:05 after Michael Brodzinski's backhand shot along the ice from the high slot got between the pads of Finnish goalie Joonas Korpisalo for a man-advantage goal at 6:19.

Connor Carrick shoved a puck ahead in the Finnish zone, and Erne was able to jump on it and put the puck behind Korpisalo.

"It was kind of a lucky bounce, a pass from Carrick," Erne said. "I got the shot in the middle, I saw the opening, took the shot. Everybody gets a little luck sometimes."

The United States got help from the Finns on the two goals. Joni Nikko was called for interference at 5:46, and when the Finland bench complained about the call, they were assessed a second penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Americans a 5-on-3 advantage for 2:00.

The U.S. was able to take advantage, and after watching Finland and Sweden win the special-teams battles the first few days of the camp, it was the United States' turn to take advantage of their advantages.

"We had the opportunity in the third period with scoring those two power-play goals," Lucia said. "It's such a big part of the game and it's the first time this week we've been a plus on the specialty teams and we had to have that."

Helping win that battle was Erne, who hadn't seen much power-play time prior to Thursday.

"We put him on the power play today, we put him in a position where he could have success," Lucia said. "His reputation is as an offensive player.

"He needs to do what he did today, that's the big thing. I'm still trying to understand what his game is. But if he's going to make this team he's going to have to do it as an offensive player. I don't see him so much as a penalty killer, but can he play on the power play and be a guy that can score a big goal and today he did and that's good for him."

Aleksi Mustonen opened the scoring for Finland, banging his own rebound past American goalie Anthony Stolarz at 9:43 of the first period, but Ian McCoshen evened the game when his shot from inside the blue line caromed off the stick of a Finnish player and past Korpisalo at 14:04.

Artturi Lehkonen tipped Teuvo Teravainen's pass past Stolarz at 6:29 of the second for the Montreal Canadiens prospect's fifth goal in four games. Mikko Lehtonen scored at 13:17 to make it 3-1 for Finland.

Then came Finland's mini-meltdown in the third, and the Americans were able to tie the game in short order.

"That two minutes we had, the 5-on-3, that was the difference," Finland coach Karri Kivi said. "We had a chance to take the win and that's something we need and we didn't do it."

After a scoreless overtime the game went to a shootout.

"The guys that were screaming to go I let go, even a couple of the [defensemen]," Lucia said. "[Will] Butcher and Carrick were two of our leading scorers so far in the camp, so I let them go. [Taylor] Cammarata's been a very good offensive player so I let him go. [Henrik] Samuelsson, I'm sure he would have liked to finish it there [fourth round] with a win. Once Erne scored in the shootout, I wanted to come back with him."

Erne said he appreciated the opportunity and hopes he made the most of it. He also hopes his performance in Lake Placid this week leaves a strong impression in the minds of the coaching and management staffs that will pick the team the United States sends to Malmo, Sweden, for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"Obviously it makes me more confident," he said of his big performance. "Hopefully I make it easy on them to make me stay or a tough decision to go home. I'm playing my best and whatever comes out of it comes out of it."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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