Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Prediction: Should We Bank on the Lightning in Game 3?

NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi offers his prediction for Friday's first-round playoff game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The series is currently tied at 1-1
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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Prediction: Should We Bank on the Lightning in Game 3?

After the two teams split the first two games in Toronto, the Maple Leafs and the Lightning will return to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4 of the series. Game 1 saw the Maple Leafs play perhaps their most complete game of the season, dominating the Lightning en route to a 5-0 victory. Game 2, on the other hand, featured a resurgent Lightning performance in which they converted three times on the power play and won, 5-3. Which game will end up more closely reflecting the way that the rest of the series plays out? Only time will tell. Let's take a look at how the two squads measure up heading into Game 3.

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Lightning vs. Maple Leafs Game 3 Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Friday, May 6

Game Time: 7:30 pm ET

Where to Watch: TBS

Click here for Lightning vs Maple Leafs Game 3 Odds

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Prediction

The story of the series thus far has been special teams, so let's start with that. 22 penalties have been called — 11 in each of the first two games — resulting in a plethora of power plays that have proven to be sources of momentum for both teams. In the first period of Game 1, Toronto killed off a five-minute major with an outstanding display of penalty killing; during the five minutes, they generated more chances than they conceded. The Leafs drew energy and momentum from the kill, with the crowd playing a significant role in that swing. Toronto scored shortly thereafter and never looked back.

In Game 2, however, special teams worked against the Maple Leafs in a major way. They were penalized a whopping seven times over the course of the game; the Lightning converted on three of those power plays. After going 0/5 on the PP in Game 1, Tampa's adjustments paid off, allowing them to secure the win. Victor Hedman's superb play was instrumental in Tampa's success—he recorded a point on all three of the power play goals. Toronto will need to adjust on both special teams units—they are just 1/10 on the power play in the series, and cannot continue to bleed goals on the kill the way they did in Game 2.

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Tampa Bay will maintain their advantage in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed eight goals through two games, yes, but those eight goals came on 7.8 expected goals against, a relatively high tally. Still, we can comfortably expect the reigning Conn Smythe winner, who boasts a .923 career playoff save percentage and has saved 47.4 goals above expected in his last 48 playoff games, to further raise his level of play. On the other side, Jack Campbell posted a shutout in Game 1 for Toronto, but then followed it up by allowing five goals in Game 2. He has been inconsistent all season, so it's hard to know what to expect from him moving forward.

Another encouraging sign for Tampa Bay was their much-improved even-strength play in Game 2. At 5v5, they out-generated Toronto in terms of expected goals, high-danger shot attempts, and scoring chances. This is the type of play that, if sustained, will lead to success regardless of the variance that the barrage of penalties will continue to bring.

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The Lightning were 27-8-6 at home during the regular season, which is noticeably better than their away record of 24-15-2. Their home-ice advantage will only be magnified in this game, given the propensity of playoff crowds to deliver especially electric atmospheres. That, combined with the other factors I mentioned above, leads me to believe that Tampa Bay should be favored by a wider margin to win this contest. Bet them down to -125 on the moneyline.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick

Pick: Lightning ML (-110) (Bet $110 to win $100)

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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