Scoring is up in the NHL this season, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins have been combining for plenty of offense for years.
The Lightning, led by Nikita Kucherov, are a slim -115 away favorite against the -105 underdog Penguins with a 6.5-goal total on the NHL odds for Wednesday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The OddsShark NHL Database shows that not only has the total gone OVER in 19 of the last 20 games in this matchup, but the last 12 matchups have all had at least seven goals. Tampa Bay, thanks to a bye week and the NHL all-star break, is playing for the first time in 11 days and is 7-2 in its last nine away games. The Penguins are 1-4 at home this season against Atlantic Division teams that are currently in a playoff position.
Tampa Bay is 37-10-2 this season, including a 17-5-2 away record. The NHL schedule-maker has affording the Lightning, with their dynamic forward group that includes leading scorer Kucherov and centers Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, the luxury of not having to jump right back into action upon reconvening following the all-star weekend.
On paper, a well-rested team facing an opponent that has allowed 13 goals over its last two games seems like an excellent matchup for the Lightning, who also boast the NHL’s No. 1 power play (29.5 per cent) and have the fifth-ranked penalty kill (83.6 per cent).
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who should get the start, is 5-3-0 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in eight games in January.
One factor in favor of the Penguins, whose 26-17-6 record includes being 13-8-4 at the PPG Paints Arena, is the embarrassment factor. Any team whose leadership includes captain Sidney Crosby, fellow center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang can be expected to give a peak effort the next time out after a loss such as Monday’s 6-3 setback against the New Jersey Devils.
Both Pittsburgh’s power play (24.8 per cent) and penalty kill (83.1) rank sixth in the NHL, making them the only team other than the Lightning with both special teams units ranked in the top 10, but they were 0-for-5 with the extra skater against New Jersey.
Matt Murray gave up all six goals against New Jersey, but still has a 5-2-0 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and .913 save percentage so far this month. It can be reasonably expected that the Penguins would have Murray get back in net right away after a rough night.
The total has gone OVER in seven of the Lightning’s last 10 away games. The total has also gone OVER in seven of the Penguins’ last 11 home games.
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