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If the Hurricanes are going to stay alive, they need to win Game 3. Pete Truszkowski gives us his pick for Thursday's game

Hurricanes vs. Lightning - Game 3 NHL Picks

Thursday’s NHL slate gives us two pivotal game threes. Carolina isn’t feeling as confident as the Islanders, who stole a game in Boston. After dropping both games at home, they now head to Tampa where the defending Stanley Cup champions can put them on the brink of elimination.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction

Tampa Bay Leads 2-0

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are looking good in their quest for a repeat. Tampa went on the road and took both games from the Carolina Hurricanes in front of a crazed crowd in Raleigh. Now, the Lightning return home and have the opportunity to end Carolina’s season if they can take care of business in the next two games.

Tampa Bay has a 2-0 series lead, but based on the underlying metrics, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see the Lightning down 0-2 instead. One can easily make the argument that Carolina has been the better team. Game two saw the Lightning get outshot 32-15 by Carolina. The Hurricanes have posted a 56.2% expected goal rate through the first two games. They’ve had nearly 56% of the shot attempts. In addition, Carolina has outshot Tampa by a margin of 70-45 through two games.

However, despite generating more chances and having more of the puck, the Hurricanes are yet to score at 5-on-5 in this series. They have one goal on the powerplay, and one goal at 6-on-5 when their goaltender was pulled for an extra attacker. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy has been his normal splendid self, stopping 68 of 70 Carolina shots. He’s stopping over 97% of the vulcanized rubber he’s seen in this series. Through just two games, he’s posted a +3.78 goals saved above expectation. Vasilevskiy has been one of the better goaltenders in the league for the past few years, and he appears to be in top form.

The Lightning have done a good job of limiting the quality of Carolina’s chances. Despite struggling in terms of shot attempts and shots, Tampa Bay actually has a 15-11 advantage in terms of high danger chances. Carolina generated over 12 high danger chances per hour during the regular season, which led the league. Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and company have done terrific work to limit the quality of Carolina’s offensive looks.

As if Carolina wasn’t already in a precarious position, they are dealing with some key injuries. Nino Niederreiter has missed the first two games of the series and he’s extremely doubtful to appear at all, as per coach Rod Brind’Amour. Vincent Trocheck went down for the Canes in game two, and Brind’Amour said it “doesn’t look good.” Niederreiter and Trocheck usually make up two-thirds of Carolina’s second line with Martin Necas, so their absence will make a tremendous impact.

Carolina might be down two games to none, but they can’t be too upset with the way they’ve played. They’ve controlled possession and spent a lot of time in Tampa Bay’s zone. Additionally, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has been solid in his first playoff run for Carolina.

We saw these games close at near a pick’em price in the first two games of this series. In fact, Carolina closed as clear favorites in game two at -115. With the series moving to Tampa, the lines have adjusted and the Lightning have become prohibitive favorites.

Over the past five seasons, Tampa Bay has had a better road playoff record than their record at home. Additionally, they’ve been a top five road team in every season with fans in the stands over that time frame. The Lightning are elite both at home and on the road, so paying too much of a premium on their home-ice advantage doesn’t make sense.

Carolina has value in this spot. It’s not easy to bet against the defending champs with a red-hot goaltender, but there’s no way the Lightning should be -160 favorites in this game.

The Pick: Carolina ML @ +140 (Click to bet)


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