Penguins lead series 2-1
The Tampa Bay Lightning look to turn their fortunes around and even the Eastern Conference final when they host the surging Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 4 on Friday night. The Lightning have lost two straight in the postseason for the first time this year after giving up 48 shots in a humbling 4-2 loss on Wednesday that followed a 41-shot effort by Pittsburgh in Game 2.
“When you play in the playoffs, you have to have a really short memory,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “Regardless if you’re playing well, or not, that’s it. Turn the page. Tomorrow is a new day. Sun’s coming up, I think. And we’ll be ready to go.” Ben Bishop (left leg) has begun skating, but is considered doubtful for Game 4 and Cooper said it wouldn’t have mattered if the Vezina Trophy finalist and Andrei Vasilevskiy both played in net the last two games. Phil Kessel continued his strong postseason with a goal and an assist Wednesday for Pittsburgh and leads the team with 16 points – eight in the last five games. “(Kessel) elevates his game in the playoffs,” Penguins center Nick Bonino told reporters. “You look at his numbers and just this playoff run and he’s been great.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVAS
Penguins – Matt Murray (W/L: 9-3, GAA: 2.13, SAVE %: .929)
Lightning – Andrei Vasilevskiy (W/L: 1-2, GAA: 2.45, SAVE %: .914)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (58-29-9, 42-36 O/U): All four lines have done the job causing havoc in the Lightning defensive zone the last two games, winning puck battles and forcing turnovers that have led to momentum. “They’re not an easy team to get shots against, but we’re finding a way,” right wing Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday, told reporters. “That’s what happens when you hold onto the puck a lot and have a lot of possession.” Right wing Patric Hornqvist (six goals) suffered an apparent left hand injury Wednesday while blocking a shot, but coach Mike Sullivan told reporters he didn’t “envision it being an issue.”
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (55-34-6, 38-44 O/U): Cooper shuffled his forward lines in the third period, putting the “triplets” — Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov – back together and they contributed five points. It was too little too late for the Lightning, who are struggling to get the puck out of their own end and through the neutral zone with speed as defenseman Anton Stralman told reporters, “A lot of it is self-inflicted. They’re a really good team, but we’re kind of feeding them a lot.” Forward Jonathan Drouin needs to rebound after his first rough game of the playoffs, registering three giveaways and no shots on net.
* Penguins are 12-3 in their last 15 road games.
* Lightning are 1-5 in their last 6 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
* Over is 5-1-3 in Penguins last 9 after allowing 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Under is 8-2 in Lightning last 10 vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings in Tampa Bay.
COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of publication of this preview, the moneyline wagers on Covers are at 50 percent on either side. In total wagering, Over 5 is picking up 70 percent of the over/under picks. View full consensus data here.
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