Series tied 3-3
The Tampa Bay Lightning attempt to take the same route they encountered last year on the way to the Stanley Cup Finals when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for a deciding Game 7 on Thursday. The Lightning lost at home to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2015 before winning on the road three days later as the franchise improved to 5-1 in Game 7s.
Brian Boyle said Tampa Bay must regroup and fellow forward Ryan Callahan reiterated the team’s confidence while Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss: “They volleyed the ball into our court. Now it’s time for us to smash it back.” Tampa Bay, which is 5-2 on the road in the postseason and 2-1 at Pittsburgh in this series, was credited with 17 giveaways in Game 6 as the Penguins fed off their pressure and received a goal and an assist each from captain Sidney Crosby and Nick Bonino. Pittsburgh will try to reach the finals for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2008-09, when it won two Game 7s along the way. “You go through different experiences, and realize how hard it is to get these kinds of opportunities,” Crosby said. “As a group, we’ve been through a lot, and we want to make the most of it.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVAS
Lightning – Andrei Vasilevskiy (W/L: 3-3, GAA: 2.88, SAVE %: .913)
Penguins – Matthew Murray (W/L: 10-4, GAA: 2.30, SAVE %: .926)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (57-35-6, 41-11 O/U): Defenseman Victor Hedman, along with forwards Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, had a combined minus-11 rating in Game 6 as three of Tampa Bay’s top players typified an uncharacteristic defensive effort. “We had some breakdowns,” Cooper told reporters. “If we’re going to advance, playing defense is going to have to be our mandate.” Kucherov leads the team with 11 goals and 19 points while the 6-foot-7 Boyle, who scored twice Tuesday to give him a career-high five tallies in the playoffs, is slated to play his 100th postseason game on Thursday.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (59-30-10, 45-36 O/U): Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan went back to Matt Murray in net Tuesday and the rookie rewarded him with 28 saves for his 10th victory of the playoffs. “He has a demeanor back there, a calming effect on the group in front of him,” Sullivan told reporters of Murray, who turned 22 on Wednesday. “I think his performance speaks for itself. He’s been thrown into a tough situation, and he’s handled it extremely well.” Phil Kessel notched his sixth goal in seven games Tuesday and leads the team with 18 points in the postseason – three better than Crosby and Bonino.
* Lightning are 5-1 in their last 6 road games.
* Penguins are 10-2 in their last 12 Thursday games.
* Under is 6-0-1 in Lightning last 7 following a home loss of 3 or more goals.
* Over is 6-0 in Penguins last 6 after scoring 5 goals or more in their previous game.
* Over is 21-4-3 in the last 28 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of publication the Penguins are picking up 71 percent of the moneyline wagers for Game 7. When you look at the total picks, Over 5.5 is grabbing 59 percent of the action. View full consensus data here.
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