With New Life, Lightning Look to Even Eastern Conference Final vs. Rangers

With New Life, Lightning Look to Even Eastern Conference Final vs. Rangers
By Cecil Peters
Fact Checked by Ron Fritz

The Tampa Bay Lightning were oh so close to going down 3-0 in their Eastern Conference Final series against the New York Rangers. But they were able to come back from a 2-0 deficit and win Game 3.

A late goal from Ondrej Palat, set up by a beautiful pass from Nikita Kucherov, who had an excellent game, gave Tampa a 3-2 win. Instead of facing a near insurmountable comeback the Lightning are now only slight underdogs to win the series at +125 on BetMGM.

That’s a much better number than they would have been had the Lightning gone down 3-0 in the series. With Game 4 set for Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the Lightning are favored to win at odds of -175 on BetMGM. The game has an over-under of 5.5, with +105 available on the over.

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The winner of the Eastern Conference Final will play the Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche, who swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final. A 6-5 overtime win Monday night put Colorado in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001.

Lightning-Rangers Series Schedule

  • Game 1, June 1: Rangers 6, Lightning 2.
  • Game 2, June 3: Rangers 3, Lightning 2.
  • Game 3, June 5: Lightning 3, Rangers 2 (New York leads series 2-1)
  • Game 4: Tuesday, 8 p.m. at Tampa Bay.
  • Game 5: Thursday, 8 p.m. at New York.
  • Game 6: June 11, 8 p.m. at Tampa Bay (if necessary).
  • Game 7: June 14, 8 p.m. at New York (if necessary).


Lightning Shooting the Puck

Tampa Bay piled shots on Rangers star goaltender Igor Shesterkin, and they needed every single one of the 52 shots to get the Game 3 win — the 52nd shot provided the third and deciding goal in the game. Shesterkin has been phenomenal all season long, and that has continued into this series. He provides the biggest threat to this Tampa Bay team's hope to win a third straight title.

Looking to overcome Shesterkin are Tampa Bay’s stars that have led it to the past two Stanley Cups. Steven Stamkos and Kucherov both scored in Game 3, and Kucherov’s great performance was the most promising sign of all. Victor Hedman also provided offense in the game and was firing shots at Shesterkin all night long.

The depth of this team isn’t what it was in years past with several key members gone because of the salary cap and Brayden Point still on the shelf with an injury. So more pressure falls on the superstars than has in recent years. Alex Killorn has struggled mightily in these playoffs, and Anthony Cirelli and Palat have taken turns trying to fill in on the top line with only Palat providing decent returns.

Updated Stanley Cup Odds

Colorado Avalanche-200
New York Rangers+375
Tampa Bay Lightning+450
*Odds via BetMGM

Lightning Goalie Has Shown Flashes

After a rough initial outing, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has been better but not quite up to his usual playoff standards yet. His clinical performance against Florida in the Round 2 sweep put the league back on notice with what he could do, and he’s shown flashes of that against New York. But he has been outplayed by Shesterkin more often than not. 

With the offensive pressure the Bolts have been putting on the last couple games he doesn’t need to be the best goalie in the series, but he can’t afford to slip back into his early series form, especially with the Rangers PP red hot.

Tampa Bay did have trouble staying out of the penalty box in the regular season. And that has proven costly against New York as the Lightning once again gave up two power-play goals to a Rangers unit that is bursting with confidence.

Slowing Down Rangers’ PP Key

The Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad has been the go-to scorer with his one timer from the left side, and Chris Kreider has been exceptional in front of the net. The best way to stop this unit is to keep it off of the ice, a tough task for the Bolts. On the bright side, Tampa responded with two power play goals of its own as it  looked to keep pace.

There isn’t much doubt Tampa Bay should be expected to win this series, and even less doubt the Lightning should win Game 4 and even the series. But the play for Florida sports bettors should simply be to take the over 5.5 being offered at plus money.

With the PP units clicking and the refs happy to call penalties, there will be chances aplenty on both sides. And even two great goaltending performances could lead to an over 5.5 total. Shesterkin will likely prove to be the difference again as the Rangers look to get closer to finally eliminating the two-time champs.

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Contributors

Cecil Peters
Senior Betting Analyst

Cecil Peters is a Senior Betting Analyst for FloridaBet.com. A professional sports bettor in Canada, Cecil specializes in analyzing the latest odds impacting professional sports, particularly the NHL. He will be providing insight throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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