NHL Picks: Lightning vs. Penguins

David Lawrence

Monday, March 4, 2013 6:03 PM GMT

The two highest scoring teams in the NHL this season will square-off this Monday night when the Tampa Bay Lighting lace things up against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. The puck is set to drop at 4:30 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on the NHL Network.

Lightning Overview

The bad news if you are a Lightning fan is that they are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference standings with 19 points on a record of 9-11-1 after losing their last four games. The good news is that they only trail Carolina by six points for the lead in the watered-down Southeast Division. However, Tampa Bay is headed in the wrong direction after a solid start with just three victories in its last 10 games and struggling in its strongest area; scoring goals. The Lightning are still ranked first in the NHL with a goals-per-game average of 3.5, but they have only managed to score a combined seven goals during this current losing streak. 

Defensively, Tampa Bay is ranked 27th in goals allowed; giving-up an average of 3.1 a game. Both Mathieu Garon and Anders Lindback have had their share of problems between the pipes this season. Lindback is still at the top of the depth chart, but look for Garon to be in goal against Pittsburgh after getting the start in the previous five games. He has yet to be confirmed as the starter, but comes in with a goals-against-average of 2.86 in nine previous outings. 

Penguins Overview 

Pittsburgh has a three-point lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division with an overall record of 14-8 and 28 points. It is coming off a wild 7-6 overtime victory over Montreal as a 104 road underdog this past Saturday that cut the Canadiens’ lead in the East to just four points. This win also snapped a two-game skid on the road. The Penguins return home where they are 5-4 this season for just one game before heading back out on the road for their next two. The total went way OVER the 5.5 line against Montreal and it has now gone OVER in three of their last four games. 

The Penguins were the highest scoring team in the league last season and they have picked-up where they have left off with an average of 3.5 goals a game. Even with Evgeni Malkin still on the mend from a concussion, Pittsburgh continues to pump-out the goals behind Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Crosby leads the team in total points (10 goals and 24 assists) and Neal is the top goal scorer with 13. Marc-Andre Fleury has done a respectable job in goal with a GAA of 2.40 and a .912 save percentage. He has been confirmed as the starter for this game.

[gameodds]7/220059/43/us[/gameodds]

Lightning vs. Penguins Betting Lines and Trends

Tampa Bay has been opened as a 156 road underdog on most NHL odds boards, with the Penguins listed as 172 home favorites. The total for this game has been set at 6.

The Lightning are 0-6 in their last six games against the Atlantic Division and 2-9 in their last 11 Monday games. The total has gone OVER in 16 of their last 22 games on the road.

The Penguins are 7-3 in their last 10 games following a win and 9-3 in their last 12 games playing on one day’s rest. The total has gone OVER in 15 of their last 21 home games. 

Head-to-head in this matchup, the home team is 4-1 in the last five meetings and the total has gone OVER in five of the last six games played in Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat Tampa Bay 5-3 as 164 home favorites the first time they met this season.

Lightning vs. Penguins Free NHL Pick

Even with the total set at six, the OVER in a matchup like this is always a possible play, but despite the prohibitively high number on the money line, the free NHL pick in this game is on Pittsburgh. The Penguins have not been overly impressive at home this season, but Tampa Bay coming to town presents the perfect opportunity to light-up the scoreboard.

Pittsburgh 6   Tampa Bay 3 (lines provided by BetOnline) 

For a free pick on this game's total, check out our NHL Picks of the Night.

Year-to-Date NHL Record: 17-8-2