Saturday afternoon in Florida, the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning will drop the puck for Game 4 of their best-of-7 series. The Bolts took the first two games in Raleigh, but the Canes stole Game 3 in Tampa and could even up the series with another road win on Saturday.
Here is a look at this entertaining series so far, some key players to keep an eye on, and a free betting pick. Tampa Bay is still a -168 favorite to go up 3-1 in the series, while Carolina is +140 to tie things up with a win.
Both of the first two games of the series were 2-1 games won by the visitors. Game 1 was won on the stick of right wing Barclay Goodrow and the glove of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Goodrow scored the tie-breaking goal with a little under eight minutes to go, while Vasilevskiy stopped 37 of 38 shots as Tampa stole the series opener on the road.
Game 2 featured another great performance from Vasilevskiy. Despite the Lightning being outshot 32-15, Vasilevskiy stopped all but one shot, while goals from left wing Alex Killorn and center Anthony Cirelli were enough for the Bolts to take a 2-0 series lead.
The Lightning may have had a nice series lead heading back home, but it was the Hurricanes who came out on top in a pivotal Game 3. With both teams scoring twice in the second period, the game remained tied until center Jordan Staal delivered the game-winning power-play goal in overtime, giving Carolina the 3-2 win. After Alex Nedeljkovic started the first two games, veteran Petr Mrazek stepped up for the Canes with 35 saves on 37 shots.
Players to Watch
Right wing Sebastian Aho will have to play a big role on Saturday for the Hurricanes to steal another game on the road. Aho, who leads the team with 10 postseason points, had a huge Game 3, netting a goal and two assists after being held without a point in the first two games. In addition, wingers Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen each have three points in this series.
For the Lightning, right wing Nikita Kucherov has 14 points this postseason, putting up points in seven of his nine postseason games. The bulk of those have come through assists, as he is looking for his first goal since Game 4 of the first round. Along with Killorn, center Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman all have 10 postseason points, with the latter two looking for their first goals of the series.
Both the Hurricanes and Lightning had top-10 offenses in the NHL this season, but the goals haven’t come this series. Both teams combined for just three goals in each of the first two games and five goals in the third, but it hasn’t been a fluke. Carolina has a slight lead in expected goals during 5v5 at 1.85 to 1.82, so unless there are a lot of penalties and power plays, we could see another low-scoring game on Saturday.
After three straight one-goal games and three straight victories for the road team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hurricanes even up the series. However, the Lightning are in a strong spot, mostly due to their star goaltender.
Vasilevskiy ended the regular season with an 18-2-0 record at home with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. The chances of him losing two straight home games are slim, especially with Carolina’s new uncertainty in net on the other side.
Vasilevskiy bouncing back, along with injuries to Vincent Trocheck and Warren Foegele for Carolina, has me backing the home team to win Game 4.
Pick: Lightning -168