An exciting series has reached a pivotal Game 4, as the Lightning and Islanders are facing off Saturday night in Long Island. After dropping the first game, the Lightning managed to win each of the last two games to take their first lead of the series.
Here is a closer look at the series so far, some players to keep an eye on, as well as a free betting pick. As it stands, Tampa Bay is once again favored at -136 to win on the road, while New York is a +118 home underdog.
In the series opener, New York used their tough defense to pull off the 2-1 upset. The Islanders held Tampa Bay without a goal until the final minute of action, while center Mathew Barzal and defenseman Ryan Pulock found the back of the net on the other side. Goalie Semyon Varlamov also made 30 saves for New York, his fifth win of the postseason.
For Game 2, Tampa’s offense came back from the dead. Led by a team-leading 10th goal from left-wing Brayden Point and a power-play score from d-man Victor Hedman, the Lightning took the game 4-2 to even the series. Right-wing Nikita Kucherov was very active in the game, earning first star honors with a three-assist night, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves.
Thursday’s battle was more Game 1-esque in the sense of a low-scoring affair. However, it was the Lightning who managed to sneak by with the 2-1 win. With the game tied at one, Point scored once again with 20 seconds left in the second period, a goal that would be the game-winner, while Vasilevskiy shut New York down with 27 saves to earn his 10th playoff win.
Players to Watch
Point continues to impress, as the 25-year old now has a six-game goal streak in hand that dates back to Game 3 against the Hurricanes. His 11 playoff goals also lead hockey, three more than the next-highest player.
However, even with all of Point’s goals, he is still second on the team in points behind Kucherov, whose six-game point streak has pushed him to 23 total points in 14 games. But Tampa would still love to get center Steven Stamkos going, as the former All-Star has just one lone assist in the semifinal.
Over to New York, Barzal has found his goal-scoring touch once again, netting two of his five playoff goals this series. The 24-year old now tied for third on the team with 11 points over his 15 games.
However, there are a couple of point-producers the Islanders really want to see get going. Right-wing Josh Bailey has 12 points, including five goals, but has mustered up just one assist this series. The other is center Brock Nelson, who has a team-high seven goals after a score in Game 2, but just two shots on goal for the whole series.
Once again, we look to high-danger chances to prove that the Islanders are more than capable of hanging around with the defending champs. Through three games, New York leads 31-21 in high-danger chances while also having close to a 58 percent expected goal rate. They will have to convert some of those chances, though, against a Tampa team that has allowed just 2.21 goals per game this postseason, the lowest of the four teams left standing.
New York has been down 2-1 in both series prior to this, so being in this position is nothing new for them. However, having to come back against Vasilevskiy and the Lightning is a tough task for anyone.
The big key will be for New York to avoid penalties and keep the game at even strength, as Tampa Bay has converted close to 40 percent of their power plays into goals. Otherwise, the Lightning should be on their way to a victory.
I love betting home underdogs, especially in a tight, back-and-forth series, so I’m once again rolling with the Islanders to even things up with a win on Saturday night.
Pick: Islanders +118
100% up to $3,000 Bonus
Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.