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Lightning vs. Panthers Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Preview

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Lightning vs. Panthers Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Preview
Carter Verhaeghe #23, Aleksander Barkov #16 and Radko Gudas #7 of the Florida Panthers celebrate. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

Game 2 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers features on Tuesday’s NHL betting card, as the Lightning attempt to take a stranglehold over the series.

The defending champions Lightning emerged winners in the first game between these Central Division foes Sunday, pulling ahead in a 5-4 decision to gain the crucial 1-0 leg up in the best-of-seven series. Predictably, the Lightning enter the betting as the slight faves over the Panthers for game 2 across sports betting sites, despite being on the road. However, it’s worth pointing out that Tampa Bay’s advantage on the NHL odds board is negligible. Hardly classed in the category of runaway faves as Florida’s odds represent equally a high probability of winning.

So, will the Lightning take the pivotal 2-0 lead on Tuesday before the series heads to Tampa Bay? Or will the Panthers level the playing field by turning the tables in this second contest at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida? We weigh in on this riveting in-state rivalry and set up the betting with a prediction and recommended NHL pick.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

Tampa Bay Lightning In The Driver’s Seat

The reigning Stanley Cup champions kicked off their title defense campaign with a victory over the Florida Panthers Sunday at the BB&T Center. The upshot of which sees the Lightning in the driver’s seat (for now) in this series and earning the slight nod at the same time – depending on the choice top sportsbook, the Lightning are trading as the slight faves in moneyline markets with odds ranging between -125 to -130 to win Game 2.

It was a highly competitive and gritty contest from start to finish with both sides giving as good as they got over three periods of scintillating back-and-forth action. The Central Division series between these in-state rivals couldn’t have had a more fitting start nor a better nerve-biting finish, as Braydon Point’s second goal on the night at just 1:14 left in the third period lifted the Bolts to the narrow road victory.

Point tied the game 4-4 with seven minutes to go in the third period on his power-play goal and then got the winner when he skated in on a breakaway and backhanded the puck past Bobrovsky.

Victor Hedman led the team with three assists (three points) on the night, while Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point led the team in scoring with both sneaking two goals into the net. Kucherov had missed the entire regular season with a hip injury but the Russian right winger couldn’t have had a better return or a timelier one. “I was excited to get back in a game. I’ve waited for this for a long time,” Kucherov said in his post-game presser.

Separately, Blake Coleman contributed a short-handed goal to help lift the Lightning to the 5-4 win in the series’ opening game while Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the net, going 35 of 39 saves for an .897 save percentage.

Panthers Fail to Capitalise on Leads and Home-Ice

Even though the Sunshine State showdown from a purely hockey perspective lived up to the hype and buzz, it certainly wasn’t the start to the series the Florida Panthers envisioned. The Panthers had won their last six games of the regular season in a row, including the last two games against the Lightning, they had home-ice advantage, and according to their seasonal record they were the so-called “better team” after clinching the No.2 seed.

Now, as things currently stand, the Panthers are on the backfoot and tipped at the disadvantage in NHL betting markets, if ever so slightly. Across online betting platforms, the Panthers are priced just shy of even money from +106 to +110 or thereabouts depending on the preferred best sportsbook.

The regular season and the playoffs can be mutually exclusive. It’s a whole new season in some respects with the playing field wide open in the battle to advance through the rounds in the best-of-seven scenario. No team can take anything for granted and game 1 will serve as a lesson to Florida going forward.

The Panthers weren’t without their chances though. The game saw four lead changes in total, as well it saw a Panthers power-play goal swiped off the board. The Panthers went into the third period trailing 3-2 but a bright start saw them score twice in quick succession. Huberdeau scored a breakaway goal at 1:27 in the third period to knot the game up on 3 and then Tippet gave his side the 4:3 lead less than three minutes later.

Carter Verhaeghe #23, Aleksander Barkov #16 and Radko Gudas #7 of the Florida Panthers celebrate. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

Tale told, the Panthers couldn’t hold on to the lead, allowing the Lightning to take the initiative by scoring two unanswered goals late in the third period. It was a “Very intense game. There was a lot going on out there,” said Florida coach Joel Quenneville in his post-game briefing. “Their power play was the difference tonight.”

Joshua Huberdeau led the Panthers with a goal and two assists (three points) on the night, while Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist and Owen Tippett and Carter Verhaeghe contributed a goal apiece. Sergei Bobrovsky went 35 of 40 for an .875 save percentage in Carolina’s losing effort.

The players and coach were all upbeat despite their bitter disappointment at the weekend, at pains to highlight the fact that “anything can happen” in the playoffs and every game is different. This is a positive sign if the Panthers are to turn things around in game 2.

NHL Predictions and Picks

If game 1 of the Sunshine State series were any indication of what’s in store, it’s certainly going to be cracking battle in the bid to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Not to mention, it’s anybody’s for the taking right now as the first game could have really gone either way.

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That said, things can change quickly in the playoffs. What starts out as a competitive series could become straightforward and vice versa. The first game is not always a reliable indication of how things will proceed. Therefore, the onus is really on the Panthers in game 2 to make a fist of it. Otherwise going down 0-2 to the defending champions is only going to make it that much harder to draw the series out to it’s fullest extent. Put simply, the Lightning aren’t the kind of team to give a big lead to because it could be game over faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Backing the Panthers to level the series is tempting, not to mention it’s a popular bet according to consensus betting reports on account it offers great value in plus money. However, if experience counts for anything, the defending champions have the edge over the Panthers, as evinced by their specials teams performance in game 1 when they went 3 of 4 in the man advantage. If the Lightning can keep up this level, a second straight win just may be on the cards.

NHL picks: Lightning -123 with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

Lightning (-123)
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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.