The New York Rangers (62-30-8) will go for their ninth straight home win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final on Thursday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (61-28-8) as small underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The home team has won each of the first four games, making it a very favorable situation for New York as the team looks to go up 3-2 in the series.
Rangers vs Lightning Odds & Analysis
You have to go back to May 3 to find the last time the Rangers lost a game at Madison Square Garden, and that took a third overtime to decide. They have lost consecutive games twice since then and have yet to drop three in a row, making them an intriguing play for bettors as home dogs for the third time in this series.
On the other hand, the Lightning have rid themselves of the rust from nine days off between series, and they are finally playing like two-time defending Stanley Cup champs again. But Tampa Bay was close to going down 3-0, and New York remains extremely confident at MSG, and it is the home team that has seen some early money. Whether or not that continues prior to puck drop remains to be seen, though.
Lightning Strike Back At Home But Need Road Win To Advance
Tampa Bay did exactly what you would expect a defending champion to do on home ice in Games 3 and 4, holding serve and tying up the series at 2-2. However, the Lightning also know that breaking their opponent on their home ice is essential to a series victory when you do not have that edge, and that is exactly what they aim to do in Game 5.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing like a Conn Smythe Trophy contender again after stopping 62 of 65 shots over the past two games. Meanwhile, winger Nikita Kucherov has scored goals in three straight games with six total points during that stretch to put his mark on the series offensively. If that continues, Tampa Bay will break serve.
Rangers Hoping Home Cooking Continues With Win In Game 5
New York’s difference in play between home and the road has been astounding, and it is fortunate that the team has home-ice advantage in this round or else the series could be over here. Instead, the Rangers were able to beat the Lightning twice after their long break, and it took a while before they got their legs back.
That time is now for the Bolts, and the hope is that the Rangers themselves do not run out of steam after playing consecutive seven-game series in the first two rounds. New York should feed off the energy of the home crowd in this one, and scoring first will be imperative to keep the fans engaged and excited.
The Lightning vs Rangers prediction feels that may not happen with its predicted score favoring the visitors like the odds, but a small upset is possible again.
Rangers vs Lightning Pick & Insights
Rangers: Keys To Victory
While Igor Shesterkin is indeed a key to victory, he is not the biggest key. The Rangers need to strike first and put pressure on the visitors from the start so that they do not gain any momentum or even keep it close until late in the game. That means the top scorers for New York – Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider – will need to step up and lead the charge. Panarin himself said the team will be “angrier and hungrier” back at home off a loss. If you are backing the hosts with your Lightning vs Rangers pick, you are banking on that.
Lightning: Keys To Victory
Vasilevskiy is the biggest key for Tampa Bay in this spot – and really from here on out – because of his rare ability to raise his level of play as the series goes on. That is what the all-time greats do, and he is cementing himself as one of the best goalies ever with his performance in these playoffs. If he gives up more than two goals in Game 5, it will be tough for the Lightning to win. But if he allows two or less, a win appears likely.
NHL Computer Pick: Lightning -125
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