Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction: Can the Lightning Take a Commanding Lead in Game 2?

NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi offers his prediction for Thursday's playoff Game 2 between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction: Can the Lightning Take a Commanding Lead in Game 2?

Tonight, the Florida Panthers will host the Lightning for Game 2 of their second-round series. The Lightning took Game 1 by a score of 4-1, meaning that this is an especially pivotal game in the series. The Panthers risk traveling to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4 trailing two games to none — this is essentially a must-win for them. Can they get the job done? Maybe, but the value is on the other side.

Let's get into our prediction, picks, and odds for Game 2 between the Panthers and Lightning.

Panthers vs. Lightning Game 2 Start Time and Where to Watch

Date: May 19, 2022

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where to Watch: TNT

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Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2 Line Movement

Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2 Prediction

Despite the final scoreline (4-1), Game 1 was fairly evenly matched between the two teams. The Panthers scored the opening goal in the first period, but the Lightning rattled off four unanswered to close out the game. Tampa won the expected goals battle by a slim margin and also generated more high-danger scoring chances, although they had fewer total shot attempts over the course of the game. Overall, the Lightning were the better team, but not by as big of a margin as the three-goal difference implies.

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The key to Tampa's victory was dominating the special teams battle, and that battle will remain pivotal as the series rolls on. The Lightning converted three of their six power-play opportunities, raising their PP's scoring rate in the playoffs to 25.6% (seventh-best). The Panthers, meanwhile, have killed off just 66.7% of their penalties since the playoffs began. That is a woeful performance from the penalty kill; their inability to kill penalties will sink the team if it continues.

Far more concerning is Florida's absolute ineptitude on the man-advantage. They were 0/3 on the PP in Game 1, resuming their struggles from a first-round series in which they failed to record a single power-play goal. This is quite odd, given that the Panthers' PP ranked seventh in the regular season with a conversion rate of 24.4%. The problem is that positive regression isn't guaranteed in a stretch as short as a seven-game series, especially not for something as streaky as a power-play. They will need to get the unit rolling sooner rather than later, or they will have trouble winning games against a team as stout defensively as the Lightning.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the Panthers are facing arguably the best goaltender in the league. Andrei Vasilevskiy was unspectacular through the first six games of the Toronto series, but he turned in a stellar performance in Game 7 — allowing one goal on 31 shots — to help the Lightning close out the series. Vasilevskiy then followed it up with a rock-solid outing in Game 1 against Florida, saving 33 of 34 shots faced. Until the Panthers get their power-play going, they will need to find new ways to generate scoring chances that trouble Vasilevskiy.

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There is no doubt that the Panthers are an excellent team. That being said, they need to prove that they can scratch out wins against top teams when things aren't going right for them. Florida had more trouble against Washington in the first round than most expected; their first game of the second round did nothing to address concerns that they aren't in top form. Until they turn it around, I think that it's worth banking on the team trending in the right direction, especially at this price.

Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning Pick

Pick: Lightning ML (+150) (Bet $100 to win $150)

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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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