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NHL - US Sports: Stanley Cup Game 4 Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning's bid to three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions is alive and kicking after a much needed 6-2 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.

With the win and opportunity to level the best-of-seven series at two on home ice in Game 4, the Lightning have moved to +260 to pull off a historical three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions. The Avalanche are -320 to deny them and win their first Cup since 2001.
What: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Colorado Avalanche, Stanley Cup Final Game 4
Where: Amelie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 01:00, Thursday 23rd June, 2022
How to watch: Premier Sports or Sports Live Streaming
Odds: TB Lightning -110, COL Avalanche -110

Tampa take advantage of home ice

Tampa Bay needed a spark after a demoralising 7-0 defeat put them 2-0 down in the series and they found it in Game 3 at Amalie Arena.
The victory was their eighth straight at home and the Avalanche's first road defeat in the playoffs (7-1).
Five Lightning skaters registered a multi-point night and netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy looked far more like himself making 37 saves on 39 Colorado shots.
A similar effort will give Tampa Bay ample opportunity to level the series, in the same way they did in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers from 2-0 down heading back home. They won that series 4-2. 

Offensive improvement for Tampa

The Lightning looked in trouble after two games of the series as not only were they uncharacteristically poorly defensively, but their offence produced very little over 120 minutes.
Tampa Bay had 23 shots in Game 1, which was their lowest total of the post-season. In Game 2, it got even worse finishing with just 16 attempts on net.
At 5-on-5, their expected goals were 1.57 over the two games as opposed to Colorado's 4.18 (a 72.7% difference). 
Showing their championship pedigree, the Lightning improved right from the start of Game 3, generating 12 shots on goal and 24 shot attempts in the first period alone. 
They finished by scoring six goals on 32 shots, chasing Colorado's Darcey Kumeper from the net just past the half-way mark. He allowed five goals on 22 shots.

Goalie decision for Colorado

Pavel Francouz replaced Kuemper and allowed one goal on ten shots, an improved .900 save-percentage compared to his teammates disappointing .773. 
Francouz has won all four of his starts in the playoffs so far including the final three games of Colorado's sweep of the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final when Kuemper was out injured. 
In the seven games that Francouz has iced, including when in relief of Kuemper, the 32-year-old has a .906 save-percentage and 2.81 goals-against-average (GAA). 
Kuemper, also 32, is 8-3 with a .892 save-percentage and 2.76 GAA in 13 post-season starts. 
Despite defending his number-one post-game saying the Avalanche "win as a team, lose as a team", coach Jared Bednar will likely be considering his goalie options ahead of Game 4.

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Avalanche powerplay on fire

There weren't too many positives for Colorado out of Game 3, except for their powerplay which remained scorching hot. 
The Avalanche went 2-for-4 on the man advantage and are now 5-for-11 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Their powerplay leads the playoffs with a 33.9 per-cent success rate (19-for-56 in 17 games). 
Tampa Bay went 1-for-6 in Game 3 which was their first powerplay goal of the Final (1-for-9). They are 20.3% (15-for-74) over all 20 playoff games so far.  
Colorado also has a better penalty-kill than their opponents, killing 79.7% of penalties against them in the playoffs compared to Tampa Bay's 77.9%.
Special teams are always key, and an area where Colorado certainly hold an advantage heading into Game 4.

Lightning may be without stars

The top goal-scorer in each of the Lightning's past two championship playoff runs Brayden Point missed Game 3 after playing the first two games following 10 straight games out with a lower-body injury. 
His status remains unclear ahead of Game 4, whilst the Lighting are also sweating on their top point-scorer in each of the past three post-season campaigns, Nikita Kucherov, who left Game 3 with less than ten minutes remaining with an apparent leg injury. 
Kucherov has three assists so far in the Finals taking his playoffs points tally to 26 (seven goals, 19 assists) in 20 games.

Avalanche can bounce back

Whilst on the surface it appears the Avalanche have faced little adversity in the playoffs so far, they will be able to lean on their experience gained from Game 5 and 6 against the St. Louis Blues in the second round. 
The Avalanche gave up both a 3-0 and 4-3 lead with less than three minutes remaining in Game 5 against the Blues, and eventually lost 5-4 in overtime when progression past the troublesome second round looked certain. 
They didn't let doubt creep in, though, which would have been ever so easy following three second-round defeats in as many years.
Colorado won Game 6 on the road 3-2, and will aim to have a similar response to the spot of adversity in Game 4 of the Final. 

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