It’s now or never for the Carolina Hurricanes as they return to PNC Arena to extend their season against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning. The teams combined for an epic 10-goal shootout in Game 4 but, like two of the previous three games, the Lightning were just one step ahead of Carolina to take a 3-1 series lead.
Carolina is at even money (Ev) to win while Tampa Bay is a -120 betting online favorite to clinch the series and the division. It’s not for a lack of trying on the Hurricanes’ part, but it’s clear that the defending Stanley Cup champions are just a league above them. Tampa Bay could move one step closer to winning it all again, but Carolina may just delay that.
Lightning: Full Power
Tampa Bay was without Nikita Kucherov for all of the regular season and captain Steven Stamkos for half of it. Not to mention the plethora of injuries suffered by the Lightning’s key players. But Kucherov’s return has them as an offensive juggernaut again, especially on the power play.
Kucherov has 17 points in 10 games, 12 of them coming via the power play. Tampa Bay has scored on 14 of its 34 man-advantage opportunities, a 41.1 percent clip. They are shredding the Hurricanes, a top-three penalty killing team in the regular season, at a 42.8 percent clip.
That has been the difference in this series as Tampa Bay and Carolina have scored six 5-on-5 goals each, though the Lightning have generated 12 more scoring chances. But the Lightning know Carolina is on the ropes and desperate. Tampa Bay can continue punishing the Hurricanes for being too aggressive.
Hurricanes: Staying Disciplined
The Carolina Hurricanes can continue playing their fast and furious style of hockey, but their penalty kill needs to step up. Carolina is yielding 3.5 power plays a game. They’ve allowed six goals on 14 attempts in the series. That is half of what Tampa Bay has scored against them.
Carolina had Tampa Bay reeling when they went up 4-2 in the second period of Game 4. But two failed penalty kills later and the Lightning were back up by one goal. Goaltender Petr Mrazek’s 76.9 save percentage (SV%) is ugly, but he had no chance in some of those goals.
Petr Mrazek is imploding after a brief stretch of dominance. Carolina Hurricanes fans frustrated at his inconsistency.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Detroit, a Red Wings fan cackles at the irony. pic.twitter.com/7T64xMmvbe
— Tristan Jarry’s Missing Glove Hand (@UrinatingTree) June 5, 2021
But whether it’s Mrazek or Alex Nedeljkovic in goal, the Hurricanes will need to sharpen their penalty kill. Kucherov and center Brayden Point have made them pay with the man advantage. Carolina will have that extra juice from the crowd to do it.
Pick: Home Sweet Home
The Carolina Hurricanes dropped both home games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they had the most success in neutralizing their offense. Carolina limited Tampa to just two goals and one power-play goal on five opportunities.
Carolina also took fewer penalties here and that may have to do with the officiating siding with the home team. But on 5-on-5, the Hurricanes have controlled the puck more than the Lightning, though Tampa has capitalized on some miscues and giveaways.
But with home-ice advantage, the Hurricanes can look to make another aggressive push at the Lightning. Their PK improves to 91.6 percent on home ice while Tampa Bay is due for some regression on the power play. The Lightning’s five power-play goals in the previous two games is way higher than the 2.14 expected goals. Carolina freezes the Lightning’s power play and wins.
Pick: Carolina Hurricanes (Ev)
Bonus Pick: Lightning Silent
The high-scoring games in Tampa Bay are fun, but things should quiet down again on the ice for Game 5. The Hurricanes will be able to keep Tampa Bay from piling up goals like they did in Game 4. Either Carolina (+325) or neither team scores more than three goals here and that’s money on the NHL betting lines.
Pick: Race To 4 Goals – Neither (-120)