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Playoff Scoreboard Watch: Lightning Strike

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The Lightning look to bounce back for Game 4 and avoid giving the Penguins a chance to close this round out at home in Game 5.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 4s always have a distinct feel to them.  Whether a team is looking to avoid a sweep, even up the series, or take a 3-1 lead, there's almost a sense of "no more surprises".  Both sides know what they're in for now, and the game-within-the-game is set to play out.  One team should be filled with confidence, the other uneasy and growing desperate.  How much desperation will the Lightning play with tonight to avoid going back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 in this series?

LAST GAME'S RECAP

Before we get to the East, there are a few things to dissect from last night's Sharks vs Blues game.  For the second consecutive game, St. Louis failed to get anything to go right in their effort.  Surrendering 3 goals on 12 shots, Brian Elliott was chased from the crease by a San Jose team that looks about as hungry as a real shark that hasn't eaten in a week.  The Sharks are playing their game their way, with both of their wins in this round coming via shut-out.  There's no easy way to say this for St. Louis fans... but, thankfully, we are Red Wings fans and have no difficulty saying this... the Blues are living up to their choke-artist history.  Winning teams have the effort and find a way.  The Blues have the effort, but for the past two games they haven't been able to find any way to make that effort count.

TONIGHT'S ACTION

Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning (Game 4), 8:00PM EDT - NBCSN

Game 3 in this series was hotly contested until the Pens managed to run away with it all in the third period.  Up 2-1 in the series, the Penguins want to get their boot on Tampa's throat.  The Lightning need to find the balance in their lines that they had in Game 1, as the Penguins' depth seemed to be what caused the most problems on Wednesday night.  Look for Pittsburgh to come out like a brawler in this one, throwing every big punch they can, while Tampa performs more like a martial artist, deflecting and blocking blows and sneaking in quick punches to wear down the opponent.

Why You Care Enough To Watch: Steven Stamkos.  No, he's not playing tonight - he and Ben Bishop have both been ruled out of tonight's contest.  But, Tampa's performance will certainly dictate if they try to rush him back for Game 5 or not.  While no definitive timetable has been set for his return, and he could be sidelined thru June, it was previously thought that he would aim for a return in the Stanley Cup Finals if the Lightning made it that far.  If Tampa can blow Pittsburgh out of the water, management probably leaves things as they are.  But if Tampa loses in a close game, you can bet that Yzerman and Cooper will be hanging on every word from doctors' mouths.  Tonight should spell out how all this unfolds.