Lightning lead series 3-2
The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost back-to-back games for the first time since mid-January and a third straight defeat would put an abrupt end to their season. Pittsburgh looks to send the Eastern Conference finals to a deciding contest on home ice and avoid elimination when it visits the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Penguins’ All-Star center Evgeni Malkin is confident despite seeing his team cough up a two-goal lead in a 4-3 overtime loss on Sunday, telling reporters “I believe in my team. I believe in myself. We’re coming back to Pittsburgh (for Game 7) for sure.” The Penguins have been doing a good job focusing on the next challenge after a loss, according to coach Mike Sullivan, and must find a way to slow down Nikita Kucherov after his two goals and an assist Sunday gave him seven points in the last three games. The Lightning sat in the same position last season before losing Game 6 at home against the New York Rangers and going on the road to win the series, but hope to make it easier this time. “I think our guys are doing a heck of a job this year handling all sorts of situations, whether it’s injuries, being down, being up. … the list goes on,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “The guys have really matured as a group on how to win hockey games.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVAS
Penguins – Marc-Andre Fleury (W/L: 0-1, GAA: 2.33, SAVE %: .920)
Lightning – Andrei Vasilevskiy (W/L: 3-2, GAA: 2.65, SAVE %: .914)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (58-30-10, 44-36 O/U): Sullivan’s two changes for Game 5 did not work out as forward Beau Bennett was a minus-2 after replacing Conor Sheary and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 25 shots in his first start since March 31. Sullivan told reporters Monday he would make a decision on game day of whether to switch back to Matt Murray (9-4, .923 save percentage) in goal. With Trevor Daley lost for the season due to a broken ankle that he sustained in Game 4, Olli Maatta took his spot on defense and contributed an assist while posting a plus-2 rating Sunday in 17:21 of ice time.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (57-34-6, 40-44 O/U): Tyler Johnson suffered a cut on his face when he was hit by a puck in pregame warm-ups before scoring the winner Game 4. He tallied for the third consecutive contest Sunday after defenseman Jason Garrison’s shot caromed into the net off his back in overtime. “He’s a winner, that’s what winners do,” Cooper told reporters. “They don’t back down.” Vezina finalist Ben Bishop (left leg) won’t likely be back for Game 6, which means Andrei Vasilevskiy (.925 save percentage in series) gets his fifth consecutive start in net and defenseman Anton Stralman told reporters, “He’s been terrific. Unbelievable.”
* Penguins are 5-0 in their last 5 Tuesday games.
* Lightning are 5-1 in their last 6 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Over is 3-0-1 in Penguins last 4 Conference Finals games.
* Over is 5-0 in the last 5 meetings in Tampa Bay.
* Over is 20-4-3 in the last 27 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Penguins are picking up 53 percent of the Covers Consensus wagers as road favorites tonight in Tampa Bay. Over 5.5 is pulling in 53 percent of the picks at the time of publication of this preview. View full consensus data here.
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