Rangers vs. Lightning NHL Odds, Preview and Prediction

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Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers. Joel Auerbach/Getty Images/AFP

The New York Rangers will spend New Year’s Eve in Tampa to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning on Friday night. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 

Friday, December 31, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at Amalie Arena

Friday’s Rangers-Lightning matchup could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview – they can only meet in that round playing in separate divisions. I have more faith in the Lightning getting back there than I do in the Rangers, but the Blueshirts are good enough to do it. At the best online sportsbooks, Tampa Bay is a +375 favorite to win the East for a third straight year and New York is at +900. 

This is the first of three regular-season meetings between the clubs. They didn’t play last season because of the unusual divisional setup in the pandemic. In the 2019-20 campaign, they split two games. The favorite is 6-1 on the NHL odds in the past seven meetings. These teams play again Sunday at Madison Square Garden. 

Rangers Rarely Blow Third-Period Leads 

New York played for the first time in twelve days on Wednesday and lost 4-3 at an excellent Florida team. The Blueshirts were up 2-1 at the end of two on goals from Artemi Panarin (10th of the season) and Mika Zibanejad (8th) but allowed the Panthers to score the first three of the third period. Chris Kreider’s 19th goal of the season at 19:15 of the third gave New York hope, but it couldn’t tie things up.  

Kreider has scored six points (two goals, four assists) in the past three games. It was Panarin’s 10th multipoint game of the season (he leads the team with 35 points), while Zibanejad has multiple points in three straight games.  

It was the second time this season the Rangers surrendered three goals in the third period to the Panthers, but New York won the previous time 4-3 on November, 8th. Wednesday was the Rangers’ first regulation loss when entering the third period with a lead (10-1-3). 

“We deserved a point probably,” coach Gerard Gallant said after the loss, which dropped the Rangers to 19-8-4. “And probably the same thing in the last game we played them [at Madison Square Garden], they probably deserved two points or one out of [our] building. So it happens.” 

Igor Shesterkin surrendered four goals on 32 shots in taking the loss to fall to 13-4-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He hadn’t played since going down with a lower-body injury on December, 3rd.  

It should be the Russian in the net again Friday as backup Alexandar Georgiev is in COVID protocols as are center Kevin Rooney and blueliners Jarred Tinordi and Ryan Lindgren. Really not huge losses there. 

New York is 5-2 on the NHL picks in its past seven road games.  

Lightning Off Humiliating Loss 

To say the Lightning have a goaltending problem with No. 1 Andrei Vasilevskiy and No. 2 Brian Elliott in COVID protocols is a slight understatement. On Tuesday, Maxime Lagace made just his third NHL start since 2018 and allowed four goals to a terrible Montreal team – but the Lightning were able to rally and win in overtime. 

On Thursday, Tampa Bay was flat-out embarrassed 9-3 at Florida, the most goals allowed this season by any team. Lagace stopped 21 of 27 shots before giving way to Hugo Alnefelt, making his NHL debut, to start the third period. I’ve been doing this for years, and I have no clue who Hugo Alnefelt is, but I presume he will start this game. The Swedish was a second-round pick by Tampa in the 2019 draft. He allowed three goals on 10 shots Thursday.  

Former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Famer Victor Hedman was a career-worst minus-6 in the loss. With blueliner Cal Foote added to the COVID protocol list, Darren Raddysh took his place on the third defensive pair in his NHL debut. Raddysh was minus-1 with two shots in 14:57.  

There were a few bright spots. Steven Stamkos had a goal to extend his points streak to five games. Coach Jon Cooper and center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare returned from COVID-19 protocol. 

In addition to the two goaltenders, center Anthony Cirelli, defensemen Mikhail Sergachev, and Andrej Sustr are still in protocols. As far as I can tell, none will be cleared in time for this game.  

Tampa Bay is 4-1 on the NHL odds in its past five in the second of a back-to-back. I will almost never pick against the Lightning at home, but there’s no way I trust Alnefelt.  

NHL Pick: Rangers (+125) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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