Game 3 in a series is almost always a big one. Either a team can seize control of the series and put a team on the brink of elimination or they can seize momentum for at least a day or two and make their opponents sweat things out on the way to Game 4. Tonight’s Game 3 between Boston and Tampa Bay sees the latter come into effect as both sides have come out swinging in the Eastern Conference finals. With the series shifting to Tampa Bay tonight, the Lightning will hope that their run of great play at home will continue.
Boston @ Tampa Bay – 8 p.m. ET (Versus) – Series tied 1-1
Boston comes into Game 3 with Patrice Bergeron looking to make his first appearance of the series and hoping to give the Bruins the edge at forward they were hoping to find all along. With Tyler Seguin doing his part and lighting things up through the first two games (three goals, six points in all) getting Bergeron into the mix would make the Bruins more than formidable across three lines worth of talent. While Milan Lucic has sat out the last two morning skates for the Bruins he’s good to go and will be hoping to make his first line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton more of an offensive force than they have been.
Both the Lightning and Bruins have some things to work on in tonight’s game and while we doubt there’ll be another goalfest like we had in Game 2, Tampa Bay will be hoping they can get a solid bounce back game from Dwayne Roloson. Roloson gave up six goals in Game 2 before being lifted in favor of Mike Smith. Roloson is prone to have games like this on occasion but he always comes back improved the following game. Tampa will need that from him tonight as they’ve been continuing to bring tons of offense to the playoffs scoring five goals in both Game 1 and Game 2.
Expect to see the Lightning’s top three lines to get things rolling even more on home ice and look for Guy Boucher to get the right lines out there against Boston to try and stir things up. Tampa’s been solid throughout the playoffs and while they rattled off eight wins in a row in the postseason and a let down can be expected at some point, Tampa will have to tighten things up to make sure it doesn’t turn into a losing streak.
Expect tonight’s affair to be as harsh and tough checking as it’s been all playoffs as we’re betting Boucher and Claude Julien put their teams to the task to get better defensively. Tampa Bay’s found ways to counter all strategies so far through the playoffs and they’ll need to do it again tonight. While the focus is on Seguin, we’ll be watching Steve Stamkos to see if the goal he got in the third period in Game 2 is what the doctor ordered to get his game rolling again.
Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.
Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.
The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.
With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.
But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.
With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.
It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.
After taking just four shifts in in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had to leave Thursday’s game with an unspecified injury.
The Blackhawks did not offer any update on what forced Hjalmarsson out of the game, only to say he would be out for the remainder of the evening.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks they dressed seven defensemen for the game when Michal Rozsival drew back into the lineup, so they still have a full lineup of defenders to finish the game. Surprisingly, Rozsival scored his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period, breaking what had been a 3-3 tie following a wild first period that saw the teams combine for six goals.
In 59 games this season Hjalmarsson had five goals and nine assists while playing more than 20 minutes per night, mostly on a pairing with Duncan Keith.
The first period of Thursday’s Blackhawks-Coyotes game had just a little bit of excitement as the two teams combined for six goals, including two by the Coyotes in the final three minutes of the period to erase what had been a two-goal deficit.
All of the action started just 37 seconds into the game when Nick Schmaltz, playing on his 21st birthday, scored his sixth goal of the season (shown above) on a feed from a still white hot Jonathan Toews.
Seven minutes later, Coyotes rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun scored his second goal in his as many games to get things even at one.
That is when the chaos started to break out. The Blackhawks quickly struck for two more goals when Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane scored six minutes apart to give the Blackhawks what would end up being a very short-lived 3-1 lead. Just one minute after Kane’s goal Ryan White netted his seventh of the season to bring the Coyotes back to within one, a goal that was followed by Radim Vrbata‘s 13th of the season just one minute after that.
Here are the two Coyotes goals that tied it.
Chicago came into the game on Thursday on a goal scoring tear, scoring at least four goals in seven of their past eight games. They are off to a great start when it comes to reaching that mark again on Thursday.
Trouble is, they can not seem to keep the puck out of their net on Thursday.
Winners of seven of their past eight, the Chicago Blackhawks are back home on Thursday night to take on the Arizona Coyotes.
The Blackhawks have been on a roll lately, especially offensively, scoring 34 goals in their past eight games. They have scored at least four goals in seven of those games. Captain Jonathan Toews has been doing a lot of the work offensively lately and is having a huge second half after a disappointing start to the season offensively.
On Thursday they host a Coyotes team that has shown a lot of improvement in recent weeks, putting together an 8-4-1 record since Jan. 20.
Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and you can catch all off the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.
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Preview: Jonathan Toews looks to stay hot against Coyotes