An intense best-of-7 series now becomes a best-of-3, as the Islanders and Lightning go back to Tampa for a pivotal Game 5 on Monday night. The last we saw these teams, New York, pulled out a thrilling 3-2 victory at home on Saturday night to even the series.
Here is a closer look at the series so far, some players worth keeping an eye on, and a free betting pick. Tampa Bay is a hearty -186 favorite, while New York enters at +156.
In a tightly-contested series opener, the Islanders stole a game on Tampa 2-1. Center Mathew Barzal scored his fourth goal of the postseason, while Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves.
The Lightning would go on to battle back two nights later and earn a 4-2 victory to even up the series. Left-wing Brayden Point continued his torrid scoring pace with his 10th goal, while defenseman Victor Hedman scored on the power play to essentially put the game away for the Bolts.
When the series shifted to Long Island, Point was massive once again, scoring the eventual game-winner as the Lightning won 2-1 to take a series lead. New York could only muster one goal against Andre Vasilevskiy, who made 27 saves.
Then in Game 4, the Islanders scored three times in the second period to eventually hold on for the 3-2 win. Barzal and right-wing Josh Bailey each scored their sixth goals of the playoffs, while Varlamov made 28 saves.
Players to Watch
Bailey’s sixth goal moved him into a tie with center Jean-Gabriel Pageau for the most points on New York with 13. However, Pageau has yet to register a point in any of the four games in this series.
Another quieter player for New York is left-wing Anthony Beauvillier, who finally registered his first point of the series with an assist on Saturday. However, Beauvillier is still looking for his first goal since game 1 against Boston in the previous series.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov has been a steady force when it comes to assists the way Kucherov has been in terms of goal-scoring. The former MVP has six assists this series but hasn’t scored himself since Game 4 against Carolina.
Center Steven Stamkos is struggling this series, too, only earning one assist in four games despite skating on a line with the two above-mentioned scorers. The former All-Star also hasn’t scored since that Game 4 against the Hurricanes.
Regardless of who wins, the fact that three of the four games played so far have been decided by one goal shows you how close this series has been. What’s even wilder is that through four games, the Islanders and Lightning are separated by just four shots, a 119-115 shot difference in favor of Tampa Bay.
When you see how close this series has been, it’s really hard not to go with the Islanders. I’ve picked them nearly every game because they have been well-undervalued based on how they’ve played this series. At +156, the fact that each game has more or less been a coin flip has me rolling with New York once again to pull off the upset.
Pick: Islanders +156
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