Ladies and gentlemen, we have a series. The Nashville Predators needed a win in Game 3 in order to avoid a 3-0 deficit and responded with aplomb. Nashville gave up the first goal of the game, but then rallied off the next five in order to get the win. A win in Game 4 win would knot the series at two apiece before the venue shifts back to Pittsburgh and guarantee another home game for Smashville. Beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in consecutive games is a tough ask though.
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Surprisingly, over has been a good bet in this series. Nashville had advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals on the strength of its defense and goaltender Pekka Rinne. In their 16 previous postseason games prior to the start of their series, only three had six goals or more. However, two of the three in this series have already seen at least six goals scored. Vegas had an idea this was to be expected as totals in Nashville games moved from 5 all postseason long to 5.5 against Pittsburgh.
Game 2 was the one game that went under the total. This one could have easily gone over the total as well though. Patric Hornqvist had a power-play goal disallowed after a review found teammate Matt Cullen was offsides with 11 minutes left in the third. It was a questionable decision that led to the game finishing under the mark.
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How will Matt Murray respond after his worst performance yet this postseason? Murray took over the starting duties after Game 3 against Ottawa and was great in that series. He registered a save percentage of .946 against the Senators and went 3-1 as a starter.
Murray was harassed throughout Game 1 and it was understandable to see him give up three goals there. The Predators controlled long stretches of play and Pittsburgh played the overwhelming majority of the game in its own zone.
That was not the case in Game 3. Murray looked out of sorts in the second and third periods with the Predators beating him for four goals in just over 19 minutes of game time. A couple of them he couldn’t do much about, but his positioning could have been better at other times. Murray needs to return to form in Game 4.
The officials have shown that they are not going to swallow their whistles in this series. Each team has had at least three power play chances in every game thus far. That has helped make this a high-scoring series, especially with how well Nashville’s power play has performed.
Coming into the series, the Penguins were thought to have the edge on the man advantage. Pittsburgh’s power play had been lights out during its run through the Eastern Conference, while Nashville’s had struggled.
In this series, Nashville has converted on four of its 10 power play chances, while Pittsburgh has found the back of the net on just one of its 13 opportunities.
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Pekka Rinne had a solid Game 3 and won his first game ever as a starter against the Pens. He improved his record against Pittsburgh to 2-7-2 and now he has the monkey off his back of not being able to win against Pittsburgh.
For the second straight postseason, a rookie has emerged as a superstar for Pittsburgh. Last season it was Murray, but this year it has been Jake Guentzel. Guentzel has 13 goals in the playoffs, four more than the next player on the list, Evgeni Malkin. He has just found ways to put himself into the right spots and his fresh legs have helped late in games.
Game 4 is going to be scrappy from the get-go after the antics late in Game 3. Although Nashville is the newcomer to this stage, it’s Pittsburgh that seems a bit too emotional and more likely to be goaded into dumb penalties. Look for that to happen at least one and Nashville to squeeze out a win thanks to its power play.
NHL Playoff Odds: Predators 3, Penguins 2
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