Winnipeg Jets (33-23-12) at Tampa Bay Lightning (42-20-7)
|Date & Time||Saturday March 14, 2015, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Tampa Bay Lightning -201 / Winnipeg Jets +180 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The Winnipeg Jets are fighting for their playoff lives as they head into Saturday night’s contest with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately the Jets have lost three of their last four games and have now fallen behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. For much of the season the Jets have been sitting in a playoff spot but they just can’t seem to get out of their own way right now. Thursday night the Jets had an opportunity to get back in the win column against a Florida Panthers club that had been struggling as well. Winnipeg started off slow, registering just six shots on goal in the opening period. They trailed 1-0 heading into the second and it was Mark Scheifele that got the Jets even with his 11th goal of the season. The game remained tied until the Panthers made Toby Enstrom pay for his holding penalty late in the period. Early in the third period Drew Stafford connected for his 13th goal of the season to get the game even at 2-2, but the Panthers would snap the tie with under four minutes remaining and add an empty net goal en route to the 4-2 win. Winnipeg is just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and now that they’re officially behind Los Angeles in this race it’s going to be very difficult for them the rest of the way. The Jets have to be hoping that the Kings hop over Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division and give them an opportunity to jump the Flames for the wild card spot. Matt Hutchinson looked like he had given the Jets a legitimate option in goal but his game has really slipped lately. Whether or not they see if he regains his form against the lethal Lightning offense or give Ondrej Pavelec a shot will be interesting.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning it’s all about trying to lock up first place in the Atlantic Division along with first place in the Eastern Conference. Recent injuries to key players Braydon Coburn and Ondrej Palat are going to make that task much more difficult, but this club still has enough to get the job done. Thursday night they played in Boston, and the Bruins reminded Tampa Bay why they don’t want to see them in a playoff series. The Lightning controlled this hockey game for long stretches, but for most of the night Tuukka Rask had their number. Boston took an early 1-0 lead before Steven Stamkos embarrassed Zdeno Chara by stealing the puck and then wristing one by Rask to even the score. Tampa Bay dominated in the middle frame but were unable to gain the lead despite out shooting the Bruins 16-4 in the frame. The third period was much more even but it was Boston jumping back in front just 2:20 into the frame. Vladislav Namestnikov scored the equalizer for Tampa and ultimately sent the game into overtime. The two clubs played a spirited overtime session but were unable to decide a winner until the shootout. Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin were both denied by Rask and Ben Bishop allowed two Bruins shooters to score as the Lightning fell by a final score of 3-2.
Winnipeg has really struggled lately but they can compete with any club in the league when they bring their best. Tampa Bay is a little too much of a favorite here for my liking so I’ll take my chances with the big road underdog.