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The scene shifts to Madison Square Garden for a pivotal Game 5 in the NHL's Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night. The Rangers return home all even with the Lightning at two games a piece. New York took a 2-0 series lead, but the Lightning held serve at home. As the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Lightning are getting respect. Tampa Bay is installed as a -130 road favorite in Game 5.
After a nine-day layoff between the second round and the start of the conference finals, it appears Tampa Bay, and particularly goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, have shaken off any rust that might have accumulated during their break. However, the Rangers return home, which has been bad news for the opposition in these playoffs. After losing Game 1 of the first round in triple overtime on home ice, the Rangers have rattled off eight straight wins at MSG.
Despite the Rangers' dominance at home, bettors are siding with the champs. As of Thursday morning at BetMGM, 71% of all bets and 62% of the money is backing Tampa Bay to pull off the win as a slight road favorite. Action is more split on the total, as 52% of bets are backing the game to go over 5.5 goals but 64% of the money is on the game to go under. However, those aren't the only ways to bet this game. Let's take a look at some other bets that have been profitable in this series so far.
Hot starts for the Rangers
In the first round of these playoffs, the Rangers faced a 3-1 series deficit, and then came from behind to win in each of the three elimination games that followed. In the second round, New York erased a 2-0 and 3-2 series deficit to eliminate the Carolina Hurricanes. As a result, they've been called the "comeback kids" a lot. However, that nickname might be a little misleading.
When Pat Maroon scored in the first three minutes of Game 4 and Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, Rangers fans might have felt a little confused and they also might have already realized it wasn't going to be their night. That was the first time since the start of Round 2 that the Rangers entered the second period trailing.
Since the second round began, the Rangers are 7-1-3 in first periods. They've gone to the locker room with the lead in seven of 11 games, and entered tied in three others. They are 4-0-1 in the first period of home games over that stretch.
Currently, the first period moneyline for Thursday's Game 5 has the Rangers at -105 odds. A first period moneyline bet pays out if the Rangers are winning, but returns your bet if the game is tied at the intermission. Obviously, if Tampa enters the break with a lead, you lose your bet. The Rangers covering a -0.5 spread in the first period is +200. This bet is riskier, as the Rangers need to have a lead and you lose your wager if the game is tied after the first stanza.
This series has also featured goals early in games. Three of the first four games have seen a goal scored in the first 2:41 of action. If you expect that trend to continue, -110 odds are available for there to be a goal scored in the first 8:59 of the game.
Cashing in on the Rangers' strength
In Games 3 and 4 of this series, the Rangers scored a combined three goals. More notably, they did not score a goal at even strength in Tampa Bay, as all three goals were scored on the powerplay. This is no surprise, as 17 of the 60 Rangers goals in these playoffs have been scored with the man advantage. Their powerplay ranked fourth in success rate during the regular season, and has been the number one unit in these playoffs to this point.
A lot of the success of the Rangers' big guns has come on the powerplay. Mika Zibanejad has 11 of his 24 points while his team has been a man up. For Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin, more than half of their production has come with the man advantage.
Speaking of Fox, he has at least one point in 15 of the Rangers' 18 playoff games at this point. He also has a point in all nine of their home games. Fox is -165 to record a point in Game 5, which isn't a bad bet, but it might be more juice than some are comfortable laying. If that's the case, Fox is +140 to record a powerplay point. He's recorded a point on the man advantage in seven of nine home games in these playoffs.
Similar things can be said about Panarin, who is finally beginning to produce for the Rangers. After a slow start to these playoffs, Panarin now has points in six of his last seven games. He's -185 to record a point in game five, which is heavy juice to lay. However, eight of the last ten points Panarin has recorded in these playoffs have come on the powerplay. Rather than lay -185, you can get Panarin to record a powerplay point at +145.
Riding with Mika
If the Rangers didn't have Igor Shesterkin, they probably wouldn't be here. But in an alternate world where they didn't have Shesterkin and still somehow got here, Mika Zibanejad would be getting some serious love in the Conn Smythe discussion. The Rangers' center has 24 points in these playoffs, the third-highest mark in the league and the highest of any player remaining.
Despite being held off the scoreboard in Game 4, Zibanejad has three goals in this series already. He also has a staggering 19 shots over the four games. He's become the focus of the Rangers' powerplay, which as mentioned above, has been clicking. Zibanejad has goals in seven of his last nine playoff games, and he's scored in six straight games at MSG.
Currently, Zibanejad is +150 to score a goal on Thursday. This guy is red hot, and his confidence is clearly through the roof. He's unloaded at least five shots in three of the first four games of this series. Gerard Gallant, the Rangers' coach, is seeing what the whole world is seeing and is giving Zibanejad even more ice time lately. He's played over 20 minutes in three straight games and eclipsed 23 minutes in the last two games.
While goals could be a bit random and luck based, there is also a prop on shots on goal for Mika. Currently, the over/under for shots on goal from Zibanejad is set at 2.5 shots. He's been peppering the net with shots in this series and plays even better at home usually.