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Hurricanes vs. Lightning Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 3 Preview

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Hurricanes vs. Lightning Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 3 Preview
Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates with the puck against Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

The marquee showdown between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning enters game 3 on Thursday with the Lightning in total command after winning the first two games of the series on the road. It’s a daunting ask for the Canes now that they’re staring at a 0-2 hole heading into Amelie Arena. But they are where they are and there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk.

Game 3 is certainly going to give fans and bettors a better idea about what the Canes are really made of. How badly they want it in the playoffs. Granted the Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions, so it’s really not surprising that they’ve taken the initiative in the series. However, the Hurricanes are the current Central Division champions and until the final week of the regular season they were in the Presidents’ Trophy hunt. Surely, that has to count for something. Or does it?

If the NHL odds were any indication, the prognosis isn’t promising for the Hurricanes. Across various online shops, the Canes are tipped as the clear-cut underdogs. Thus, it’s safe to assume they’ve got their work cut out to pull off the upset. The question is whether they can actually pull it off and prove to be the value pick in the betting.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Thursday, June 03, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at Amelie Arena

Canes Under Pressure

The Central Division champions are well and truly under the cosh. It’s safe to say that things haven’t gone to plan so far. Worse yet is the fact that time is fast running out for the Canes to salvage their playoff bid, although some might argue the writing is already on the wall because the Lightning can potentially sweep the series at home now. A result that likely doesn’t bear thinking about if you’re a diehard Carolina fan.

Both games in Carolina were decided by a goal and resulted in exactly a 2-1 victory for the Lightning. It wasn’t for a lack of effort by Carolina either as they had Andrei Vasilevskiy under constant attack, firing 30-plus shots at the Russian netminder in both games. Frustratingly, however, they have merely a goal in each game to show for their relentless effort. All in all, Carolina outshot Tampa Bay 32-15 in game 2, but it also had more than double the giveaways (23-11) while Tampa Bay blocked 16 shots.

Even though Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic wasn’t nearly under quite as much pressure as his Tampa Bay counterpart, sometimes all it takes is an inopportune moment, a bad break, sloppy play for a goal to materialise. In the first game, it was unfortunately Nedeljkovic who coughed up the puck at a critical point in the third period that resulted in the game-winning goal. Whereas in the second game, it was a tussle between Jacob Slavin and Cirelli that blocked Nedeljkovic’s view and he didn’t see the puck until it was safely tucked up in the net behind him. Nedeljkovic was beaten again in early in the third period and the Lightning went up 2-0 before Carolina finally scored their first goal of the game in the dying minutes of the third period.

“It was a pretty good game, played pretty hard,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You’re playing the best team in the world and we’re going toe-to-toe, that’s how it feels like, that’s for sure. Certainly not getting overwhelmed. We just didn’t get a break.

Vasilevskiy the X-Factor for Bolts

For a second straight game, Vasilevskiy was virtually impenetrable between the posts and gave his side the boost of a 2-0 advantage that could prove pivotal towards the series’ ultimate decision. Vasilevskiy finished with 31 saves after recently being named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy presented annually to the league’s top goaltender. That performance came two days after he made a whopping 37 stops in Game 1.

The Lightning certainly haven’t overwhelmed the Hurricanes but then again they haven’t needed to thanks to their more disciplined game and their impressive netminder. Systematically in each game the Lightning have worn down the Hurricanes and they’ve managed to score timely goals to ensure victory.

At the face of it, Carolina seemed to control the tempo of the game and for a while looked destined to win. But the Lightning were able to crank it up in spurts, just enough to catch the Hurricanes unawares and score. Heck, the Canes threw the kitchen sink at the Bolts but they didn’t balk at the pressure one bit. Suppose, that’s the measure of a bona fide champion. A team that’s been there and done that.

NHL Predictions and Picks

Nobody can truly say that we’ve seen the best of the Lightning in this series, but that hasn’t prevented them from going up 2-0 over the Hurricanes. Moreover, they’re the significant faves in NHL betting markets to win game 3 according to bookies. If all that’s not a ringing endorsement of Tampa Bay’s credentials as the best team in the league, what is.

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Maybe the Hurricanes have given the Bolts way too much respect thus far or they too haven’t quite played their best yet. Whatever it is, they need to correct their game somehow otherwise the next two games will result in nothing else but a home win for the hosts.

Tale told the Lightning are heading home to what’s likely going to be a charged and electric atmosphere at Amelie Arena. It’s hard to bet against the Lightning under such circumstances, never mind the fact that they’ve got the added boon of momentum and form going into this game.

Thus, the Lightning to win outright are the choice bet on the moneyline, it's a bit pricey, to be frank. For those that do agree it’s a pricey bet, tickling the Lightning to cover the puckline might be the better alternative. Granted both previous games were decided by merely one goal but that in of itself is no guarantee the margins will be so small again. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the Lightning will rely on such small goal margins for much longer. It’s doesn’t behove them to fly by the seat of their pants so, not when they’re faced with a crucial game 3 in which they can deal such a heavy backbreaking blow that it’ll literally take the wind out of Carolina’s sails.

NHL Picks: Tampa Bay Lightning (-150) & Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+167) with Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

Tampa Bay Lightning (-150)
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Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+167)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.