Boston Bruins Cunningham nets first NHL goal

Warfield native Craig Cunningham scored his first NHL goal as a Boston Bruin on Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Warfield native Craig Cunningham scored his first NHL goal as a Boston Bruin on Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The 24-year-old former Vancouver Giant skated in his fifth match for the Bruins, playing his best game on Saturday and logging his NHL career game-high 15:36 of ice time.

Cunningham scored a shorthanded goal breaking in and beating Sens goalie Robin Lehner five hole, as he tallied three shots through the game playing on a line with his good friend and teammate from his Vancouver Giant’s days, Milan Lucic.

“It was exciting,” said Cunningham in a press conference. “Obviously, I was disappointed it wasn’t in a win but it was exciting to get the first goal and it’s nice to have a guy like that around who cares for you and is happy for you.”

Cunningham looked good playing on a line with Lucic and Chris Kelly, arguably the Bruins best line on the night, finishing with a plus-one.

Boston coach Claude Julien was succinct in his praise of Cunningham after the game saying his performance against Ottawa was “very good” and that he “skated well, you know, he competes hard. All things that we know about him.”

Cunningham was called up from AHL affiliate Providence Bruins on Dec. 11 for a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, after playing in three games for Boston to open the season in early October.

The Bruins’ David Krejci is out with injury and Simon Gagne is away for personal reasons, making room for the former Beaver Valley Nitehawk.

Cunningham also is expected to play Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

So far the Providence captain’s energy, physical play, and improving offensive game has earned him a regular role on the third or fourth lines.

If Cunningham can maintain an offensive presence and continue his sound defensive play, he may make it difficult for the Bruins to send him back to Providence.

“Not every guy can just step in and start scoring goals right away,” Cunningham said. “For me, I got to earn my stripes in the bottom six playing with energy, getting in on the forecheck and being hard. Hopefully I’ll get comfortable enough where the offensive side of the game will come.”