The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, where they would be looking to win the Cup for the third consecutive year. It seemed like this may not be the case early in the Eastern Conference Final.
However, things have quickly turned in the Lightning's favor. After the New York Rangers won Games 1 and 2 on their home ice, they dropped Games 3 and 4 in Tampa, Florida. Then, the Lightning kept the momentum by winning Game 5 in New York.
That means the series could end Saturday night when the Rangers and Lightning meet in a Game 6 matchup at Amalie Arena in Tampa. If New York can win to stave off elimination, there will be a winner-take-all Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Here's everything you need to know heading into Saturday's Game 6.
Saturday Schedule, Odds
Game 6: New York Rangers (+155; bet $100 to win $155) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-180; bet $180 to win $100), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Vasilevskiy Will Lead Lightning to Shutout Win, Series Victory
Tampa Bay knows what it takes to win high-pressure games in the postseason. That's how it has won back-to-back Stanley Cups and put together another impressive run through this year's playoffs.
So it's not a surprise that the Lightning have rallied back to take a 3-2 lead over the Rangers after dropping the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final. Especially when they have a goaltender as talented as Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net.
Over the past three games, Vasilevskiy has allowed only four total goals and tallied 86 saves. The 27-year-old got off to a slow start in the series—like quite a few players on the Lightning's roster did—but he's now playing at the level that made him last year's winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Vasilevskiy will need to keep making stops if Tampa Bay is going to win this series, whether it's in Game 6 or a potential Game 7. And the Lightning know the Eastern Conference Final isn't over until the horn sounds after one team's fourth victory of the series.
"We've had some success with it in the past, but again that's not guaranteeing anything that's going to happen in the future," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said, per NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "We've got to bring our A-game."
Expect the Lightning to do just that, mostly thanks to the strength of Vasilevskiy and their defense. In fact, with the way the Rangers offense has struggled to score in recent games, they may not even get one puck past Vasilevskiy on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay will blank New York to end the series, securing its spot in the Stanley Cup Final. The Colorado Avalanche will be waiting, and they'll pose a huge roadblock on the Lightning's quest for a three-peat.
But Tampa Bay may be getting healthier at the right time. According to Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times, Cooper said that defenseman Ryan McDonagh should be "OK" to play in Game 6 after getting hurt in Game 5, while center Brayden Point could be back in the lineup for the first time since the first round of the postseason.
All of this adds to why the Lightning should have no trouble ending the Rangers' season at Amalie Arena on Saturday. It also likely won't be particularly close. Because Tampa Bay is the clear better team in this series.
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