The Tampa Bay Lightning look to make it to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight postseason while the Pittsburgh Penguins look to fend off elimination and force a Game 7.
The Bolts and Pens will face off on Tuesday night in Tampa for Game 6. The puck is set to drop at 8 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN.
Here are five keys to the game:
1.) Feed Off the Home Crowd
The Lightning will have home ice advantage as they look to close out the Eastern Conference Final. The Bolts were in a similar situation last postseason and lost 7-3 against the New York Rangers, but won Game 7. Tampa Bay will want to get off to a fast start, and get a ton of pucks towards the Pittsburgh net. They’ll also want to avoid the turnovers and sloppy play, which has cost them some in this series.
2.) Get the First Goal
Tampa Bay is 8-1 in this postseason when scoring the first goal. They are 3-3 when the opponent scores the first goal. The Bolts will need to establish the forecheck early in the game, and get the cycling game going too. If they can get the first goal then they need to keep attacking and not sit back trying to hold the lead. If the defense can jump into and be involved in the offensive zone then they’ll have a decent shot at getting that first goal. Tampa Bay should try to use the stretch pass since they’ve had some success with it in the series already.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been impressive manning the net since having to take over for an injured Ben Bishop in Game One. He has stopped 173 of 187 shots he has faced in the series. His numbers have come back down to earth as the series has gone on, but his teammates haven’t played the best hockey in front of him. The biggest question facing the Penguins entering the game is who will be their starting goalies? Will it be Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray? Murray is 9-4 this postseason with a 2.33 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He’s led Pittsburgh to this point, but Fleury has played the last game plus and hasn’t looked too bad. Does head coach Mike Sullivan go with experience or the guy that has led them to this point in the playoffs?
4.) Malkin & Crosby
Sidney Crosby ended an eight game goalless streak in Game 2, scoring the overtime game-winning goal. He registered a point in the first three games of the series, but has been pointless the last two games. Crosby has two goals, one assist and three points in five games against the Bolts. Evgeni Malkin ended an eight game goalless streak in Game 4 and ended an overall six game pointless streak in the postseason in Game 3. He has one goal, two assists and three points so far this series. If the Penguins want to force a Game 7 then they’ll need their superstars to pick up the pace and contribute.
5.) Establish the Forecheck Early
Pittsburgh will want to establish the forecheck early to try and take the crowd out of the game. They’ll also need to somehow defend against Tampa Bay’s use of the stretch pass, which has been effective in the Eastern Conference Final. The Penguins need to go after the Bolts defense and force them to make quick decisions with the puck. Hopefully, those quick decisions will force the Lightning to turn the puck over and lead to some scoring chances for the Pens.