With the series headed to Tampa deadlocked at 1-1, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will struggle to take control of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup.
Here are five keys for each team to find victory in Game 3.
5. Tilt the Ice
There are times when the Lightning start running around in their own zone. Use that to your advantage, Penguins.
The longer Tampa Bay's offensive weapons are defending, the less time they have to score.
4. Stay Out of the Box
While the Penguins came in No. 1 in the league on the penalty kill, Tampa Bay proved that it can score anyway.
Pittsburgh can't afford to get into a shootout with the Lightning, especially if their power play is still short-circuited.
3. Score First
The Pens are much better playing with a lead than they are trying to come from behind. If they can get the first goal, the Lightning crowd gets taken out of the game and they can pull back into their defense-first approach while awaiting Lightning mistakes.
2. Score a Power-Play Goal (or Two)
Zero-for-the series on the power play isn't going to get the job done. Sooner or later, someone from Pittsburgh has to make an impact with the man advantage.
1. The Game 1 Version of Marc-Andre Fleury Must Return
It seemed like Marc-Andre Fleury used all of his spectacular saves up in Game 1 of the series. He was ordinary in Game 2, as the Lightning powered four goals past the Pittsburgh net-minder.
Pittsburgh can't win with Fleury giving up that many goals. They need "Game 1 Marc-Andre" back.
Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Score First
Not only does getting the first goal get the crowd into the game, it ratchets up the pressure on the Pens and potentially shakes the confidence of Marc-Andre Fleury.
When the Lightning get a lead, they are tough to beat. They fall into their 1-3-1 checking system and then pounce on any mistake an opponent makes.
4. Seen Stamkos?
While Pittsburgh has missed its superstar for half the season, Steven Stamkos might as well have been on the shelf, too. The Lightning's superstar has been invisible for the past two months.
Is he hurt? Has he lost confidence?
The Lightning aren't saying, but for Tampa Bay to win this series, Steven Stamkos must have an impact. No points and just two shots on goal in two postseason games is pitiful.
This is a guy who scored 91 points and 45 goals for the Lightning this season.
3. Eliminate the Lapses in Concentration
In Game 1, it was defenseman Pavel Kubina's laziness around his own net that cost the Lightning a goal. In Game 2, it was goalie Dwayne Roloson's senior moment.
Every mistake is magnified 10-fold in the playoffs. Tampa Bay cannot continue to beat itself and win this series.
2. Score Early
Not only does an early goal get the crowd pumping, it also eliminates Fleury's air of invincibility. The longer Fleury has a goose egg on the board, the tougher he becomes. The early goal seems to be Fleury's kryptonite.
Get one early on, and he's just another goaltender. The longer it takes, the more "double-stack-reverse-pad saves" you will begin to see.
1. Stay Out of the Box
The Lightning have taken far too many penalties this series. Sure, they've been stellar on the penalty kill—but every penalty is another shift taken away from Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis.
This also enables the Penguins to get their offense going and provides them with a source of momentum. These penalties have been foolish stick penalties and holding penalties that are just lazy plays.
Eliminate these silly penalties, Lightning, and Pittsburgh's source of momentum is gone.
With a large contingent of Pennsylvania transplants in the Tampa Bay area, you can expect a large group of Penguins fans at the game Monday night.
It should be interesting to see which group of fans will be cheering the loudest when the final seconds tick off the clock.
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