As expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning responded triumphantly in Game 2, defeating the New York Islanders 4-2 at Amalie Arena.
The series now shifts to Long Island, where the Nassau Coliseum should be rocking Thursday night. But will home-ice advantage be enough to propel the Islanders to another victory as an underdog? Here’s my top pick for Game 3.
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Tampa Bay Lightning (-130) at New York Islanders
After a surprising loss in Game 1, I wrote that I expected more urgency out of the Lightning in Game 2. That’s exactly what happened. The Bolts brought the energy and took it to New York most of the night. They beat New York in shot attempts, 49-34, and drew five power-play opportunities. The Islanders are somewhat lucky the final score wasn’t worse, as Tampa’s prolific power play only converted on one of those man advantages.
Tampa Bay’s star power led the way in its Game 2 victory. The top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat contributed five points and finished with an expected goals for percentage of 78.3.
The Islanders deserve credit for keeping each game competitive, despite what I believe to be a pretty significant talent disparity. With the series shifting to New York, coach Barry Trotz will benefit from the last change, which proved pivotal when the Islanders knocked off Boston the round prior.
Trotz neutralized Boston’s “Perfection Line,” featuring David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron by sticking defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech on them. Having a healthy Jean-Gabriel Pageau would go a long way in shutting down Tampa’s top line. Pageau left Game 2 with an undisclosed injury that Trotz described as a tweak, so it appears he’ll be good to go for Game 3.
The Islanders may have more success against Tampa’s top line in Game 3. But Tampa has more talent across their lineup than Boston does. Plus, Tampa has Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. Tampa’s star power and goaltending allow it to stay in games and steal games even when they’re outplayed.
I fully admit this is a tough game to call. The Islanders have home ice and last change on their side, but the Lightning are just so darn deep and hold the advantage in net.
Interestingly, the Islanders have fallen into a 2-1 series deficit in each of the last two rounds, with the second loss coming at home both times. I expect that trend to continue here. And I’ll likely be betting on whoever loses tonight to win in Game 4, as it feels like this series could go seven games.
If you feel more confident in Tampa, I recommend taking them to win in regulation at plus money.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning Moneyline (-140)
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