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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers Game 1 odds, picks and prediction

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers play Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series Sunday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Below, we analyze the Lightning-Panthers odds and lines, with NHL picks and predictions.

The Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champs, but they were just third in the Central Division and must open their title defense on the road. For the first time in NHL postseason history, they meet the cross-state rival Panthers.

Tampa Bay will have RW Nikita Kucherov (hip) and C Steven Stamkos (lower body) in the lineup for Game 1.

Florida won the past three head-to-head meetings, outscoring Tampa Bay by a 14-4 margin. The Panthers also won three of four vs. the Lightning in Sunrise this season, outscoring the Bolts 15-9. The lone loss was by a 6-1 score. Otherwise, Florida really dominated on home ice.

Lightning at Panthers: Odds, spread and lines

Odds via BetMGM; access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list. Lines last updated at 5:34 a.m. ET.

  • Money line: Lightning -120 (bet $120 to win $100) | Panthers +100 (bet $100 to win $100)
  • Against the spread/ATS: Lightning -1.5 (+200) | Panthers +1.5 (-250)
  • Over/Under: 5.5 (O: -110 | U: -110)

Lightning at Panthers: Projected starting goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy (31-10-1, 2.21 GAA, .925 SV%, 5 SO) vs. Sergei Bobrovsky (19-8-2, 2.91 GAA, .906 SV%)

Vasilevskiy won 31 games this season, but he dropped his final two starts of the regular season at the Panthers by a combined score of 9-1. He allowed nine goals on 65 shots in the two games.

The 26-year-old Russian backstop went 2-4-0 with a 3.36 GAA and .898 SV% in six appearances against Florida. The GAA was easily the highest against any opponent, and the SV% was also his worst against any team.

Bobrovsky finished up strong with three straight wins to end the regular season, including a 5-1 win over Tampa May 8. He was 3-2-0 with a 3.23 GAA and .879 SV% in five meetings against the Lightning this season.

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Lightning at Panthers: Odds, lines, predictions and picks

Prediction

Lightning 4, Panthers 3

Money line (ML)

The LIGHTNING (-120) are the defending champs. I trust Vasilevskiy and Tampa Bay after their run in the bubble last season more than I trust a Panthers side which hasn’t gone far in the playoffs in decades.

Until Florida earns that trust and proves it has championship mettle, you have to back the tried-and-true side.

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Against the spread (ATS)

The Panthers +1.5 (-250) have given the Lightning -1.5 (+200) fits, and even if they don’t win this one outright, it’s going to be close. Of course, the Panthers did win five of the eight regular-season meetings, and just one of the games was decided by one goal. Playing the underdog to keep it close isn’t a wise move based on recent history.

Over/Under (O/U)

OVER 5.5 (-110) seems like an unwise play in a game featuring two goaltenders the caliber of Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky. However, Vasilevskiy allowed north of three goals against the Cats, while Bobrovsky did the same against the Lightning.

The Over was 5-2-1 in the eight regular-season meetings. Offense will reign supreme.

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