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Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning
When and Where: Saturday, Feb. 16, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., 7 p.m. EST.
Looking to run their winning streak to five games and their point streak to nine, the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning attempt to continue their roll Saturday night when they host their Atlantic Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
Habs trying to strengthen hold on wild-card spot
Montreal (31-19-7) is currently fourth in the Atlantic but only three points behind second-place Toronto. The Canadiens also have two more points than Metropolitan Division teams Columbus and Pittsburgh, giving them the inside track for the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot.
Heading down to Tampa to catch the Habs in action tomorrow night? Let Jonathan Drouin help you out with your trip planning… 🌴☀️
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) February 15, 2019
Montreal opened its three-game road trip with a 3-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night, just its second regulation loss in the last 12 games (8-2-2). Tomas Tatar pulled the Canadiens even early in the third period, but Carey Price allowed a pair of goals 2:24 apart midway through the final stanza.
Coach Claude Julien chalked up some of the loss to the team playing its first game since last Saturday, telling the team’s official website, “We were a little bit sloppy. When you look at the way we played, especially in the first period, we looked like a team that hadn’t played in four or five days.
“We were better in the second period, but we had to score with the chances we had. That hurt us.”
Price, who finished with 35 saves, is again expected to be between the pipes for the Habs as he tries to avoid back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since a three-game skid from Jan. 5-10. He is 10-5-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .925 save percentage on the road, going 4-2-0 in his last six starts.
The netminder lost his only start against Tampa Bay this season, turning aside 32 shots in a 4-1 defeat Nov. 3. Price is 13-14-6 lifetime versus the Lightning but has struggled recently against them in Florida, going 1-4-1 with a 3.02 GAA in his last six appearances there.
Tatar, second on the team with 18 goals, has tallied in back-to-back games and had a pair of assists in the most recent meeting, a 6-5 road loss Dec. 29. Andrew Shaw had two goals in that game and has a goal and two assists in his last two contests.
Lightning pulling away from pack in East
Already the first NHL team to 40 wins, the Lightning (43-11-4) became the first team to 90 points after hammering Dallas 6-0 on Thursday night. Tampa Bay is 15 points clear of its closest pursuer — Toronto — in the East and overall in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 15, 2019
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists in a four-goal first period, while Steven Stamkos added a pair of goals to give him 32. The Lightning have piled up 22 goals during their four-game winning streak after potting just six while going 2-0-2 in the previous four games.
“It’s a ton of fun to come to the rink every day when things are going as well as they have this year,” Stamkos told the team’s official website following the win. “We’re a group that our tendency is to have some fun and relax and enjoy ourselves. When you’re doing that, you’re usually playing some good hockey and playing with confidence.”
Stamkos has totaled four goals and five assists during a four-game point streak and has four goals and nine helpers in his last eight home games. Kucherov, who leads the NHL with 66 assists and 92 points, has factored on 11 of Tampa Bay’s 17 goals in the last three games with four goals and seven assists and has recorded back-to-back four-point games.
The duo have given Montreal fits in Tampa Bay’s two wins over the Canadiens this season, combining for three goals and three assists.
After posting his fifth shutout of the season Thursday night, Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to be back in goal for Tampa Bay. He has helped the Lightning claim at least one point in his last six starts, going 4-0-2 with a 1.61 GAA, two shutouts, and a .948 save percentage.
Vasilevskiy has also had Montreal’s number for most of his career, compiling a 6-1-2 record and 2.40 GAA in nine starts. He has not lost to the Habs at home in regulation, going 3-0-1 with a 2.72 GAA.
The Lightning are:
- 38-14 in their last 52 games vs. Atlantic Division opponents.
- 44-15 in their last 59 games as home favorites of -201 or greater.
- 4-1 in their last five home games vs. the Canadiens.
- The under is 6-2-1 in their last nine games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The under is 5-2-1 in their last eight games following a win.
- The under is 5-2 in their last seven games vs. Eastern Conference opponents.
The Canadiens are:
- 19-40 in their last 59 games as road underdogs.
- 7-18 in their last 25 games as underdogs between +151 to +200.
- 0-4 in their last four games vs. the Lightning.
- The under is 6-0 in their last six road games.
- The under is 5-0 in their last five games as road underdogs.
- The under is 9-3-1 in their last 13 games as road underdogs between +151 to +200.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
It’s just the Lightning’s world and the rest of the NHL are living in it. Breaking out of their four-game offensive slump in emphatic fashion is a scary proposition for the rest of the league as teams and potential playoff opponents try to figure out how to slow down Tampa Bay.
Price is a good start, but even he can’t keep the Lightning at bay forever. Montreal just does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with Tampa, and after eight games on both offensive extremes, look for the Lightning to play a mature two-way game for consecutive win No. 5.
Prediction: Pick: Lightning -214
Full-Game Total Pick
This is a confidence pick in both goaltenders, but more so Price since he was solid in defeat at Nashville. Vasilevskiy keeps finding ways to win against the Habs, whether it is yielding one goal or five like he has in both starts this season, but the hedge here is he keeps Montreal in check while Tampa Bay gets enough offense.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 6 goals
Full-Game Prop Bet
A confidence pick in Vasielvskiy, who is coming off a shutout in his last start and has a strong career track record versus Montreal. The Lightning have also conceded two or fewer goals in five of their last eight games, and the Habs are coming off their one-goal output in losing at Nashville.
Prediction: Pick: Canadiens UNDER 2.5 goals
Half-Time Side Pick
The Lightning have scored an NHL-best 76 goals in the opening period and are a net-plus 15. Montreal, meanwhile, is a minus-3 net and has yielded 53 goals in the first 20 minutes. That is enough to make the aggressive play and give the half-goal for the reward of plus-130 as opposed to the minus-150 offered for the Lightning on the money line.
Prediction: Pick: Lightning -0.5 goals (+130)
Half-Time Total Bet
The teams have cleared this number in both meetings, totaling eight goals between them. The Habs are no offensive slouches with 50 first-period goals, but Tampa Bay’s prolific scoring provides another layer of confidence for this pick.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 1.5 goals (-150)