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NHL - US Sports: Stanley Cup - Game 3 Preview

The Stanley Cup final moves to Tampa Bay with the hosts in a 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series, with the Lightning desperate to hit back after they were beaten 7-0 by the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2.

The Avs have now won seven games in a row and are 1/6 to lift Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time since 2001, while defending back-to-back champions Tampa are 9/2 to turn it around.

What: Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Stanley Cup Final Game 3

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay

When: 01:00, Tuesday 21st June 2022

How to watch: Premier Sports, Sports Live Streaming

Odds: COL Avalanche 29/20, TB Lightning 6/4

Lightning shocked in Denver

Tampa would have been confident of levelling the series on Saturday night. They had dropped Game 1 4-3 in overtime, but after a sloppy start had seen them go into the first break 3-1 down, they looked much sharper in the second and third frames, showing much more of their trademark defensive astuteness.

Starting a series with a loss is nothing unusual for the Lightning. They were thrashed 5-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their opening game of the post-season and dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final 6-2 against the New York Rangers.

And although they also lost the second game at Madison Square Garden, they had followed their previous 17 play-off game defeats with a win next time out.

Such is their ability to learn from their mistakes and come back stronger - you don't win 11 straight play-off series in the NHL by chance.

However, there were no positives to be drawn from Saturday night's debacle. Colorado outshot the Lightning 30-16 as their speed through the neutral zone left the Tampa defence in disarray.

Meanwhile, the Lightning's star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy - expected to be a difference-maker in this series - owned a dismal 76.7 save percentage.

Avalanche building momentum

One question mark against Colorado going into the final was that they have not faced a battle having come through the weaker Western Conference play-offs with ease.

They lost just two games out of 14 to reach the final, both against 2019 champions St Louis Blues, and never trailed in any of the three series they won.

However, it's beginning to look like that won't be an issue if their speed and dynamic offence can keep unlocking the Lightning defence.

The series moving to Tampa's home arena won't necessarily change things. Although the Avalanche lost their final four road games of the regular season, they are unbeaten away from home in the play-offs this year, racking up seven straight victories.

The Lightning have their own seven-game win streak going at home, but Colorado have won on both their last two visits to Amelie Arena.

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How can the Lightning strike back?

It would be easy to write off Tampa after their abysmal showing Saturday night, but the fact is they aren't as bad as that made them look.

In both games so far the Lightning have been two goals down before the first ten minutes had elapsed, and being sharper out of the blocks could make a world of difference. Having the home crowd behind them could certainly help in that regard.

They also need to put more pressure on Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper - a potential weak link for Colorado. Although he earned a shutout in Game 2, he has just a .901 save percentage in the post-season, placing him 15th among play-off goaltenders in that metric.

Tampa have managed 39 shots on goal across the two games so far. Colorado fired 38 in Game 1 alone.

Makar marching towards MVP honours

Colorado's star defenceman Cale Makar was kept relatively quiet in Game 1, but he made his presence felt in the Game 2 blowout and is now just 1/2 to be awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as play-offs MVP.

The 23-year-old scored twice in the third period of Game 2 - once shorthanded and once on the powerplay - to take his offensive tally to 24 points in 16 games in the play-offs.

Makar's team-mate Nathan MacKinnon is his closest market rival at 5/1. MacKinnon has potted 11 goals in the play-offs, but has chipped in with just two assists in this series so far.

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