The Eastern Conference Final is all tied at two games a piece and both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to be the team that takes a 3-2 series lead. Game 5 will take place tonight on NBCSN at 8 p.m.
Here are five keys to the game:
1.) Weather the Storm
The Penguins have the home ice advantage and will be looking to feed off the crowd’s energy for a good start to the game. The Bolts will need to weather the storm and get through the first 10 minutes of the game without any serious damage. They’ll need to come out ready to play and match the speed of Pittsburgh. The Pens will be trying to establish offensive zone time early and often. Tampa Bay will need to be good in the defensive zone and have the active sticks that they had in Game 1 so they can block the passes and shot attempts before they get through to their goaltender.
2.) Establish the Forecheck Early in the Game
The Lightning will want to take full advantage of Trevor Daley being out of the Penguins lineup. Daley broke his ankle in Game 4 and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Pittsburgh’s defensive pairings will look a little different from last game and the Bolts will need to be physical on the forecheck. Whether it is Olli Maatta drawing in for the Pens or someone else, Tampa Bay will need to attack that defenseman when he has the puck in the defensive zone and try to force some turnovers for scoring chances. The Bolts will also have to win the board battles if they want to have any sustained attack time in the offensive zone.
Fleury came in for Matt Murray in relief in Game 4 and didn’t allow any goals, while his team scored three in the third period, but just fell short of a comeback. Fleury was tested a couple of times in Game 4, but not nearly enough for a goalie who hadn’t seen game action all postseason. The Lightning need to get the puck on net whenever they can especially early to see how Fleury’s rebound control will be, and if he’s leaving rebounds then they’ll need to have someone in the crease when they can. Tampa Bay should also have a presence in front of the net so it’s harder for Fleury to see the puck or so their own player can go for the deflection. This is a pivitol game in the series and we’ll see if Fleury can return to his regular season self or his postseason self, where he tends to let in a few “soft” goals every now and then.
Pittsburgh had done a good job of not losing its cool this postseason, but they let it happen a couple of times in Game 4, and it cost them. They looked like the Penguins of old, who would lose control if something didn’t go their way or another team engaged in scrums with them. The Lightning were involved in a lot of extra stuff after the whistle last game and it seemed to throw the Penguins off their game, just a little bit. The Penguins will need to be careful and not take any bad penalties like Kris Letang did in Game 4. Tampa Bay needs to do exactly what they did in the last game to agitate the Penguins and try to draw some power plays.
5.) Special Teams
If you win the special teams battle, then you have a good chance to win the game in this series. The Lightning finally got its power play on track last game, but it could be even better. The Pens have had a good power play this series, but again, it could be even better if they could hit the net with some of their shots. Pittsburgh’s shots seem to be going high or wide of the net on the power play. The teams will need to be disciplined and not give the opposing team too many chances on the man advantage because they will eventually score on one of those chances, and that could be the difference in the game.