The Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in the exact same position entering Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final as they were in during the Eastern Conference Final.
The problem for the two-time reigning NHL champion is the Colorado Avalanche are a much tougher team to beat than the New York Rangers.
Tampa Bay needs to win Game 3 inside Amalie Arena on Monday to make the championship series competitive.
Colorado steamrolled through the Lightning defense for 11 goals in the first two games in Denver. The Avalanche earned a 4-3 overtime win in Game 1 and produced a 7-0 blowout in Game 2.
Tampa Bay has yet to find an answer for Colorado's offensive depth. Eight Avalanche players recorded multiple points in the first two games. No Tampa Bay player reached that mark.
The Lightning used Game 3 to reset the last series, but only after the Rangers got out to a two-goal lead. Another poor start at home would doom the Lightning's fate in the Stanley Cup Final.
Stanley Cup Final Game 3 Odds
Money Line: Tampa Bay (-110; bet $110 to win $100); Colorado (-110)
Puck Line: Tampa Bay (-1.5, +225), Colorado (+1.5, -265)
Tampa Bay Sits In Must-Win Situation
The Tampa Bay Lightning faced some difficult circumstances during their two-year title reign, but this may be the most challenging.
Colorado seems poised to sweep the Stanley Cup Final in what would be its third 4-0 series win of the postseason. The Avalanche responded to a close Game 1 with a seven-goal outburst in Game 2.
Tampa Bay is not out of the series yet, but it can be on the brink of elimination if it does not make the proper adjustments in Game 3.
Jon Cooper's team faced the same situation in the Eastern Conference Final, but it did not respond to the New York Rangers' challenge until the midway point of Game 3. Tampa Bay went on to win four straight games once it produced a victory in the series.
The same situation likely will not play out against the Avalanche, who are better suited to win the Stanley Cup this season than the Rangers.
Tampa Bay's solutions need to start in defense since it allowed Colorado to jump on it from the start in Game 2. Colorado scored the opening goal on the power play in the first three minutes and owned a three-goal lead at the first intermission.
Andrei Vasilevskiy needs to erase the 11 concessions from Games 1 and 2 and get back to being the potential MVP of the series. The Tampa Bay goalie gave up eight goals in last year's Stanley Cup Final win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Vasilevskiy is coming off his worst two-game concession streak in his postseason career. The defense in front of him needs to contain the Colorado offense better, but he also needs to be in better position to stop some of those attempts.
Tampa Bay's offense needs to find more ways to create. The Lightning managed 16 shots in Game 2. Colorado was two shots away from doubling that total.
Not only did Colorado take more shots, but it was far more efficient with its attempts on net. That has to change in order for Tampa Bay to get on the board in the series.
Steven Stamkos Needs To Be Best Player On Ice
Steven Stamkos scored four of his five goals in the Eastern Conference Final on home ice.
Tampa Bay's captain scored twice in the series-clinching Game 6, and he bagged a goal in Games 3 and 4.
The Lightning need at least one goal out of Stamkos on Monday night to counter what the Avalanche have thrown at them.
Stamkos managed just four shots in the first two games in Denver. He had four shots alone in the final contest against the Rangers.
Stamkos recorded at least three shots on goal and scored in four of his last five home postseason games. He did not score in the series-clinching Game 4 win over the Florida Panthers in the second round.
All of the recent statistics suggest Stamkos will be in the middle of a handful of Tampa Bay's surges forward.
A successful night out of Stamkos does not guarantee the Lightning will win, but it could serve as a catalyst for the rest of the roster to pick up their games to earn a home win.
Sportsbook (Updated from DK as of Jan 28 2022)
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