The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning look to finish off their first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. Up, 3-1, Tampa Bay was on the wrong end of a 4-1 road loss Monday night. Now, the Lightning will get another chance to finish off their Central Division rivals meet in Game 6
Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning
When: Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
TV: CNBC, SN360, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL
Tampa Bay -145
Florida +1½ (-180)
Tampa Bay -1½ (+160)
Panthers Need Repeat Performance
Florida got the huge win in Game 5 despite starting rookie goaltender Spencer Knight. The 20-year-old came up big by turning back 36 shots.
MacKenzie Weegar and Patrick Hornqvist each had a goal and an assist to help Florida pull the series within 3-2. Mason Marchment added a goal for the Panthers, and Frank Vatrano scored an empty-netter with 14.6 seconds left.
“I was just trying to have fun,” Knight said. “You know, it’s still hockey, right? I’m on this ice every single day. It’s just a different setting.”
Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau each had two assists. Florida didn’t announce Knight as the starter until pregame warm-ups, but the first-year net-minder stopped every shot after giving up a goal on the first attempt he faced. Now, the Panthers are hoping for a repeat performance.
Lightning Look to Unleash Offense
The Lightning looks to unleash their high-scoring offense in Game 6 after putting at least three goals on the board in four of the first five games. Ross Colton scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“That’s a really good hockey team over there,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “They weren’t going to just roll over and die. It’s two really good hockey teams going at it. We knew it was going to be a tough series from the beginning. We put ourselves in a good position to go home for Game 6 and try to win a series. There’s no point in dwelling on the past now. We have a 3-2 series lead. We weren’t able to close it out tonight and we’ll expect a better effort from our group next game.”
Tampa Bay to Finish with Flourish
Florida extended its season for one more game, but I’m expecting Tampa Bay to bring a swift and emphatic end to the Panthers’ season in Game 6. Florida is 4-1 in its last five road games, but the Panthers are also 12-25 in their last 37 games against a team with a winning record and 3-7 in their last 10 games as an underdog.
On the flip side of the coin, Tampa Bay is 4-1 in its last 5 playoff games as a favorite, 14-6 in its last 20 meetings against Florida, and 19-7 in its last 26 home games against the Panthers. With the Favorite in this rivalry going 20-6 in the last 26 meetings I like the Lightning to finish off the Panthers by at least a pair of goals to cover the NHL puck line betting odds.