The Stanley Cup Finals won’t be a sweep, as the Montreal Canadiens managed to stay alive with an overtime victory in Game 4. Now, as the series shifts back to Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning will once again have the chance to clinch their second straight Cup victory.
Here is a look at how this series has played out, who to look out for, and a free betting pick. Tampa Bay is a big favorite, listed at -235, while Montreal is a sizable underdog at +195.
The Bolts came out strong in Game 1, pouring it on the Habs with a 5-1 victory. Right wing Nikita Kucherov scored twice, while center Brayden Point collected three assists. Montreal had a better effort in Game 2, but Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 42 saves have set the tone for Tampa Bay’s 3-1 win.
With the series shifting up north, Game 3 was all Lightning. Tampa scored twice in each period, led by two goals from center Tyler Johnson, as they were victorious 6-3. Kucherov, as well as defenseman Victor Hedman, each had a goal and assist in the game as well.
Then in Game 4, easily the closest game yet, both teams traded goals and went to overtime with the game deadlocked at two. Then just under four minutes into extra time, Canadiens right wing Josh Anderson sprawled and scored on a rebound, his second of the game, to lift Montreal to their first win of the series. Goalie Carey Price also had his best game of the series, stopping 32 shots.
Players to Watch
A pair of youngsters have been carrying the load for the Canadiens this series. Center Nick Suzuki has two goals and an assist, while rookie right wing Cole Caufield has three helpers. However, both have struggled defensively, as they enter Game 5 with plus-minuses of -5 and -4, respectively.
Montreal would also love two of their high-scoring veterans to get things going. Right wing Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Jeff Petry were the team leaders in points in the regular season, but the two have just one lone point, a Petry assist, between them in this series.
For the Lightning, their leading postseason scorer Kucherov is once again shouldering the load. The former Hart Trophy winner has five points this series, including a hat trick of goals, both of which lead the team. Meanwhile, Point, who previously had a nine-game goal streak before the Stanley Cup, has yet to register a point since his three assists in Game 1.
As elite as Tampa Bay’s top-line is, they are getting serious contributions from players on their bottom-six. That includes third-liners Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, who along with Johnson, all have four points through four games.
Montreal’s victory on Monday was just the eighth time in league history that a team down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final won Game 4. Rather surprisingly, three of those seven teams also managed to win Game 5, extending the series even further.
The Canadiens deserve credit for hanging tough in this series, but their run is going to end tonight. Tampa Bay has too much scoring depth that Montreal just can’t keep up with, especially with the way Vasilevskiy has looked.
Back in front of their home fans, I like the Lightning to win this game easily, securing themselves as the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+122)
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