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Penguins Favored Over Lightning in Game 7 on Thursday Night

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A berth in the Stanley Cup Final will be on the line on Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final as -200 betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Pittsburgh avoided being ousted from the playoffs on Tuesday, posting a decisive 5-2 win to even the series at three games apiece heading into Thursday night’s Lightning vs. Penguins betting matchup at Consol Energy Centre.

The Penguins had entered the series as strong -180 favorites on the NHL series prices, but have had their hands full against a Tampa Bay squad that pushed them to the brink of elimination despite being outshot in all six games.

With each team posting a pair of road victories in the series having home-ice advantage in Game 7 may be of little comfort to the Penguins, who were 14-3 in their previous 17 home contests.

Pittsburgh must also reverse a worrisome three-game losing streak in Game 7’s since claiming their most recent Stanley Cup championship in 2009, with all three defeats coming at home including a 1-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely get the call between the pipes once again for the Lightning on Thursday. The 21-year-old has filled in admirably for starter Ben Bishop, who remains sidelined by injury, giving the Lightning a chance to win despite seeing an average of over 38 shots per night in the series.

Overall, Tampa Bay is a respectable 7-4 in their past 11 meetings with the Penguins, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, including three wins in Pittsburgh, while Vasilevskiy’s strong performance has lifted his career record against the Penguins to 5-3.

Despite the Lightning’s recent success against Pittsburgh, and the Penguins’ struggle to close the deal in recent Game 7’s, Tampa Bay continues to trail on the Stanley Cup odds, sitting at +400, well back of the Penguins, who enjoy short +160 odds.

The San Jose Sharks patiently await the winner of Thursday night’s game after clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, capturing the Western Conference crown in six games.

The Sharks entered the postseason well back of the favorites at +1600 on the Stanley Cup odds, and have now won two of their three playoff series after being pegged as early underdogs on the NHL series prices.

Penguins heavy favorites against Senators for Thursday’s Game 7 matchup

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Betting against Sidney Crosby in a do-or-done game takes some guts, since the Pittsburgh Penguins’ history shows they find a way when their backs are against the wall.

With a spot in the Stanley Cup final at stake, the Penguins are a -200 moneyline favorite against the +170 underdog Ottawa Senators with a five-goal total for Thursday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The winner moves on to the Stanley Cup final against the Nashville Predators.

This season, Pittsburgh is 14-1 in 15 games when it was a favorite of -200 to -500 on the moneyline, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. They are also 14-3 in their last 17 home games against Ottawa, but one big reason this series has required Game 7 is that the Penguins are 1-7 on the puckline in their last eight games against the Senators.

It’s no secret that Ottawa, which is 27-21-2 on the road this season and 35-28-5 as the underdog, will rely on goalie Craig Anderson (45 saves in Game 6) and their execution of a 1-3-1 neutral zone trap. The Senators have a strong defense with Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci, who have helped Ottawa stay in most games..

Ottawa will try to be opportunistic and hope that the likes of RW Bobby Ryan or C Kyle Turris can produce timely goals. Ottawa has been a moneyline underdog of +150 or more nine times since the NHL all-star break. They are 4-5 in those matchups.

Pittsburgh is 37-7-6 at home this season, as well as 51-17-11 as a favorite. They are 2-0 in Game 7s under head coach Mike Sullivan (both on the road), and have outplayed Ottawa over each of the last three games.

The presence and talent of Crosby and C Evgeni Malkin might be the hole cards that give the Penguins the ability to offset several key injuries. Defenseman Justin Schultz (upper body), defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (upper body), RW Patrik Hornqvist (upper body) and RW Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body) could all miss the game on Thursday.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray has allowed only three even-strength goals in three games since taking over as the starter. The total has gone under in six of Ottawa’s last nine road games against Pittsburgh.

If Pittsburgh wins, it will be the first time the franchise has won Game 7 of a series at home after losing Game 6 on the road. Ottawa is also out to buck a historical trend as it is 0-5 all-time in Game 7s, home and away. The last was in 2012.

NHL Conference Final Odds: Penguins, Predators Series Betting Favorites

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In the wake of their latest humbling of the Washington Capitals, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are seen by oddsmakers as capable of repeating as the Stanley Cup champions.

The Penguins are listed at +175 on the latest odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Anaheim Ducks (+250) and Nashville Predators (+300), the opponents in the Western Conference final, are second and third on the board, while the Ottawa Senators (+450) draw in as the darkhorse.

No team has repeated as champions since the NHL’s salary-cap era began in 2005. Pittsburgh is also allowing 35.3 shots per game in the playoffs, which seems a tad high for a championship team. A club with speed and an agile, mobile defense corps – such as Nashville with Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban – would match up well with the Penguins.

Nashville also hails from the Central Division, which has produced four of the NHL’s last nine champions.

Nashville (-125) is a slight favorite against Anaheim (+105) on the NHL series prices for the Western Conference final, which begins at Anaheim on Friday. Although the Predators are in their first conference final, they come in with one of the deepest lineups, with C Ryan Johansen and RW Viktor Arvidsson among the dangerous players on a team that does offense by committee.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Nashville G Pekka Rinne has also been much more consistent than Anaheim’s 24-year-old John Gibson.

Anaheim, as long as Ryan Getzlaf isn’t neutralized, is a strong veteran team. They did have a draining seven-game series in the second round against the Edmonton Oilers where the attrition included losing depth forwards Patrick Eaves and Logan Shaw.

The fact that the total has gone over in six of the Ducks’ last nine games isn’t encouraging. The total has gone over in seven of Nashville’s last 10 road games against Anaheim, with two pushes. The Ducks are listed as small -115 home favorites for Game 1 on Friday.

In the Eastern Conference series price, Pittsburgh (-300) is a massive favorite against Ottawa (+250). The combo of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin (who is the +500 favorite on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds) and Matt Cullen, man-for-man, surpasses Ottawa’s top centers, Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Pittsburgh, which is 9-1 at home against Ottawa over the last five seasons according to the OddsShark NHL Database, will need a strong offense to cover up for its suspect defense.

It might be tempting to take Ottawa and its dynamic defenseman Erik Karlsson in the series just because their price is so inviting. Ottawa has stymied two opponents by forcing teams to get through their 1-3-1 trap before testing steady goalie Craig Anderson, but frustrating a team with as much playoff experience as Pittsburgh is a tall task.