Pittsburgh Penguins (-145) at Tampa Bay Lightning (+125, 5 o/u)
Phil Kessel’s breath might be the only thing about the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-4, 4-2 Road) that stinks right now. After coughing up Game 1 on home ice, they’ve responded with two straight wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning (9-4, 5-2 Home) and can claim a stranglehold on the series with another tonight at Amalie Arena (8:00 PM Eastern).
Pittsburgh bounced back with a 3-2 (OT) win on Monday and a 4-2 win on Wednesday, but the scores looked tighter than the games really were. The Penguins outshot the Lightning by 20 in both games to put them up 124-69 in that category for the series.
Peppering the goalie is never a bad strategy, but it’ even more effective when a team is down to its backup goalie like the Lightning are following Ben Bishop’s freak, Game 1 injury. Both Bishop and captain Steven Stamkos likely won’t be returning for tonight’s affair, so the Bolts are going to have strike back with the same lineup that has gotten severely outplayed.
One of the reasons Tampa hasn’t been able keep up with the Pens in either the shots or goals department is that they haven’t been able to get under Pittsburgh’s skin. Tampa has had just four power plays through the first three games; compare that to the 42 they piled up in their first ten playoff games. Look for Brian Boyle and the Lightning to throw their bodies around a lot more in Game 4 to try to get the Pens off their game.
Pittsburgh doesn’t need to make any changes to its gameplan; they just need to keep giving big minutes to their surprisingly successful line of Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin. The trio have combined for 39 points so far these playoffs.
Between the pipes, Pens’ rookie goalie Matt Murray hasn’t been asked to do much this series, but he’s been solid enough when called upon. On the opposite end, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy has been thrust into a tough spot and, despite playing well, can’t seem to come up with big saves in big spots. He’s now lost seven consecutive starts dating back to the regular season.
Unless Bishop can work his way back into the net, the Lightning will lack their biggest spark. And without that, they aren’t worth betting.
Pick: Pittsburgh (-145).
(Photo Credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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