The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers know they are playing for the right to take on the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final, but the winner of the Eastern Conference could take some time to determine.
The Lightning got back into the series with a Game 3 victory Sunday, and they could move level with the Rangers with a win at home in Game 4 on Tuesday night .
Tampa Bay's path to victory on Sunday afternoon was not ideal, as it conceded twice before it beat Igor Shesterkin three times in the final 30 minutes.
The two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion can't afford another slow start, as Shesterkin is more than capable of shutting the door with a lead in hand.
Special teams could be the key for the Lightning, who scored twice on the power play to get back into Game 3 but allowed the Rangers to open the scoring with two power-play goals.
Whichever team cleans up its penalty kill could have the edge in Game 4.
Eastern Conference Game 4 Odds
Money Line: Tampa Bay (-170; bet $170 to win $100); New York (+150; bet $100 to win $150)
Puck Line: Tampa Bay (-1.5; +150); New York (+1.5; -170)
Tampa Bay Needs Much Better Start On Home Ice
Tampa Bay has not started well throughout the series.
The Lightning gave up the opening goal in Game 1, allowed two first-period tallies after scoring first in Game 2 and conceded two power-play goals in the second period of Game 3.
Luckily for the Lightning, they rallied in Game 3 with two power-play goals of their own and a late game-winner off the stick of Ondrej Palat to avoid a 3-0 series deficit.
Getting to Shesterkin early is imperative. Once he settles into a rhythm, he could turn away a high number of shots like he did with his 49 saves in Game 3.
A first-period goal would ease the pressure inside Amalie Arena and allow the Lightning to shift the nerves over to the young Rangers.
Tampa Bay needs its playoff experience to show from the first puck drop so that it can go back to Madison Square Garden with a best-of-three series on its hands.
Penalty Kill Needs To Be Better On Both Ends
An improved penalty kill could be the difference-maker for either side in Game 3.
The Rangers and Lightning combined for two power-play goals in Games 1 and 2 and had two each in Game 3. Palat's game-winner was the only tally recorded at even strength.
The margins could be small in Game 4, or any contest beyond Tuesday night, because both goalies are capable of taking over the series.
Shesterkin received most of the goalie attention this postseason because of his output for the Rangers, but do not count out Andrei Vasilevskiy from changing the series on his own. After all, this is the back-to-back Stanley Cup winning netminder.
If one of the Eastern Conference Final participants cleans up their penalty kill before the other, that could make all the difference in Game 4, especially if the goalies play at a high level at even strength.
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