It’s a rematch of the great 2016 Eastern Conference finals as the Pittsburgh Penguins head south on Thursday to try and slow down the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won five straight and continue to churn out impressive performance after impressive performance. Pittsburgh swept a back-to-back over the weekend to snap a three-game skid and should have Tristan Jarry back in goal.
Jarry Shining for Pittsburgh
After his disastrous playoff showing last year, Tristan Jarry’s spot as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top goalie was a tenuous one. But, Jarry has been great from the get-go this season and has been one of the NHL’s best netminders. His play has been a big reason why the Penguins are in such a good position at this point.
Jarry has lost three of his last four starts, but he followed up a three-game skid in which he allowed 13 goals with a perfect 27-save shutout of the New York Rangers. That performance might have been exactly what Jarry and the Penguins needed in order to get back on track. The Penguins followed up that win with a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets the next day as sizable road favorites on the BetUS sportsbook.
If there’s any team that can slow down the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s the Penguins. Pittsburgh has the fourth-best team goals-against average in the NHL.
Lighting a Juggernaut
The Tampa Bay Lightning play on Friday night as well as on Thursday, so backup goalie Brian Elliott will likely start one of the Lightning’s next two games. While Jon Cooper likes to use Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first half of back-to-backs and Brian Elliott in the second half, it’s possible he’ll change things up.
If Elliott starts, the Lightning will be at a big disadvantage. But, if Vasilevskiy starts, Tampa Bay is as formidable as it gets. Tampa Bay’s skater group is as deep and productive as well, which makes it even tougher for the vast majority of teams to match up with the Lightning.
Even elite teams are due to lose at some point. Tampa Bay is vulnerable against legitimate contenders such at Pittsburgh. The Lightning have such a gaudy record in large part due to how well they play against bad teams. Tampa Bay’s recent 5-2 romp over the Ottawa Senators as huge home favorites on the NHL betting lines is a good example of how the Lightning roll past inferior competition, which might mask deficiencies against good teams.
Penguins at Lightning Head-to-Head
Both meetings between these teams have been lopsided wins by the road team. Pittsburgh smoked the Lightning 6-2 as massive underdogs in the season opener and Tampa Bay returned the favor with a 5-1 win two weeks later, covering the puckline as a slight favorite.
Penguins at Lightning Game Information
- Game: Pittsburgh Penguins (33-14-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (35-11-6)
- Location: Amalie Arena
- Day/Time: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN+
Penguins at Lightning Betting Lines
Penguins at Lightning Prediction
If you’re betting online, expect the Lightning’s winning streak to come to an abrupt end at the hands of Jarry, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh has gone through strange multi-game funks that have accounted for a good chunk of the Penguins’ losses, but Mike Sullivan’s team seems to be breaking out of its latest skid.
Pittsburgh on the moneyline is at +150 or so, which is still pretty good value for one of the better teams in the league. The goal total is a tricky bet but, if you want to pick a side, go with the under because of how good Jarry and Vasilevskiy are.
The Penguins are still loaded offensively with big-name forwards and have seen star turns from Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, which has expanded how dangerous Pittsburgh is. Underratedly, the Penguins have a ton of options that teams need to defend. They’re well-equipped to take down a team as top-to-bottom good as Tampa Bay.