Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning
When and Where: Thursday, Dec. 6, Amalie Arena, St. Petersburg, Fla., 7:35 p.m. EST.
Two teams trending in opposite directions collide Thursday night when the foundering Boston Bruins try to salvage a split of their two games in Florida against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins seeking spark after lopsided loss
Boston (14-9-4) have dropped three of its last four games following a 5-0 whitewashing by Florida on Tuesday night, its most lopsided defeat since opening the season with a 7-0 thrashing at defending Stanley Cup champion Washington.
The Bruins came undone late in the second period, allowing three goals in a 6:42 span that capped a four-goal outburst by the Panthers. A lack of offense has plagued Boston of late — the Bruins have scored two or fewer goals in eight of their last 10 games and failed to pot more than three in that span.
“You just have to simplify. I think the biggest thing when you’re not scoring is you just have to do other things. We have to be better defensively as a group.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 5, 2018
One reason for the lack of goals is a dip in production on the power play. While the Bruins have an overall conversion rate of 27.6 percent (24 for 87), they have tallied just four times in 24 chances over their last nine games.
David Pastrnak has a team-leading 19 goals — tied for fifth in the league — but his only two over the last nine games came in their loss to Toronto on Nov. 26. He had two goals and two assists in four matchups versus the Lightning last season and has 10 goals and three assists in 15 career games against Tampa Bay.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is turning to Tuukka Rask after Jaroslav Halak let up five goals on 44 shots. Rask’s last start came in a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday and is 2-2-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average in six road starts this season.
He has won seven of his last nine starts against the Lightning but did lose the most recent one, a 4-0 road defeat April 3 in which he stopped 32 of 36 shots. Rask is 16-7-1 with five of his 41 career shutouts lifetime versus Tampa Bay.
Lightning riding four-game win streak
Tampa Bay (21-7-1), which has an NHL-best 43 points, is back home after sweeping a three-game road swing while extending a torrid run offensively.
The Lightning have scored four or more goals in nine of their last 11 games and are coming off a 6-5 shootout victory at Detroit on Tuesday night. J.T. Miller and Cedric Paquette rallied Tampa Bay with goals 5:08 apart in the third period, with Paquette’s short-handed tally knotting the game at 5 with 5:02 to play.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 5, 2018
After failing to convert on a power-play in the final 30-plus seconds of overtime, defenseman Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov beat Jimmy Howard in the shootout while Edward Pasquale stopped two of three attempts for Tampa Bay to win his NHL debut.
“I didn’t expect to give up five goals and get a win, but at the end of the day, this team has so much scoring power that you’ve just got to fight through,” Pasquale told the club’s official website. “It was one of those games a couple nice goals, a couple crappy ones, but I held in there and we got a win.”
Pasquale will give way to Luis Domingue, who continues to get the bulk of the work with Andrei Vasilevskiy sidelined with a broken foot. Domingue had started the previous 11 games before getting Tuesday off and had gone 8-3-0 with a 2.91 GAA in those contests.
Domingue is 5-1-0 at home with a 2.69 GAA at home, giving up two or more goals in all six games. He has lost both his career starts to the Bruins, absorbing a 6-2 loss early last season while playing with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Lightning already have five players with at least 10 goals, paced by Brayden Point‘s 20. He had a six-game point streak in the win over Detroit but has still totaled six goals and five assists in his last seven contests.
Point’s linemate Kucherov, who also went without a point but has team highs of 32 assists and 42 points, had a 10-game point streak come to an end after piling up five goals and 19 assists in those contests.
While its 5-on-5 defense has been inconsistent, Tampa Bay has tightened up on the penalty kill of late. The Lightning have killed off 17 of 19 penalties over the last seven games and have an overall success rate of 82.2 percent.
The Lightning are:
- 20-6 in their last 26 in the fourth game of a 4-in-6 situation.
- 4-1 in their last five games after scoring five or more goals in the previous game.
- 40-14 in their last 54 games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- The over is 7-1 in their last eight games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- The over is 19-7 in their last 26 in the third game of a 3-in-4 situation.
- The over is 4-0 in their last four games vs. Atlantic Division teams.
The Bruins are:
- 2-6 in their last eight road games.
- 1-4 in their last five road games.
- 1-4 in their last five road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home winning percentage.
- No trends of note.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Bruins can talk all they want about playing a simpler game, but this contest is all about the Lightning and how they are just piling up goals at every turn. Tampa has averaged 3.9 goals in its 10 games against Atlantic Division opponents and 4.0 goals in its 15 home games.
Boston right now does not have the offensive chops to keep up with the Lightning and will return home with back-to-back losses.
Prediction: Pick: Lightning -167
Full-Game Total Pick
This is riding the Lightning’s offensive surge coupled with the fact the second line of Point, Kucherov and Tyler Johnson will regroup at home with coach Jon Cooper able to get that group a favorable matchup with the final line change. The flat number makes this pick more challenging, but Tampa Bay still has enough firepower to get it done.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 6 goals
Full-Game Prop Bet
While the two teams are trending in opposite directions, there is enough of a contrast that the straight money line is a better play than giving the one-half goal at +135. Tampa Bay has racked up 16 first-period goals in its last eight games, but Boston has yielded just two in its last nine.
The Lightning also had to rally from first-period deficits in two of their last three games.
Prediction: Pick: Lightning -160
Half-Time Side Pick
In addition to the Lightning scoring 16 first-period goals in those last eight games, they have yielded nine. The Bruins have totaled five goals in the opening 20 minutes of their last nine games.
Tampa Bay, though, could also take care of this mark on its own. It scored 13 goals in its recently completed five-game homestand, tallying in four of the five contests.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 1.5 goals