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Stanley Cup Final Game 3 best bets: Panthers to claw their way into series

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Vegas Golden Knights successfully defended home ice in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, winning both while outscoring the Florida Panthers 12-4 on aggregate.

Can the Panthers push back in Game 3 or will the Golden Knights put them on the brink of elimination? Let's take a closer look.

Golden Knights (+105) @ Panthers (-125)

The scorelines we've seen through two games are not very flattering to the Panthers.

While there are definitely some red flags - they've taken far too many penalties and Sergei Bobrovsky looks vulnerable - I think the Panthers played a lot better than the scoreboard suggests.

At five-on-five, the Panthers won the high-danger chance battle 22-21 while outshooting the Golden Knights. Adin Hill performed at a very high level and Bobrovsky didn't, combining with Alex Lyon to allow nearly 20% of the shots faced at full strength.

Goaltending is by and large the difference right now. Bobrovsky hasn't been the unbeatable force we saw through three rounds (quite the contrary), and Hill has.

I think the majority of the Panthers' game is in an OK spot. They're more than holding their own at five-on-five. They just need to be more disciplined and, ideally, get even average goaltending from Bobrovsky. They don't need to raise their level that much. They're going to come out firing at home and empty the tank to get a result in Game 3.

If they lose this game, the series is as good as over. They know it, you know it, and I know it.

I'm expecting the Panthers to match the Golden Knights at even strength, if not outplay them. So long as they can get a save, I like their chances of making this a series - at least temporarily.

Bet: Panthers (-125)

Aleksander Barkov over 2.5 shots (-130)

Injuries don't seem to be hampering the Panthers' star center. He attempted 13 shots over the first couple games, which is as many or more than every other forward in the series.

Barkov came up a puck shy in Game 1 - albeit not for a lack of opportunities - and followed that up with a successful eight-attempt performance.

I'm expecting another productive effort from Barkov in Game 3. He has been a machine at home all season, going over the number in 27 of 42 games (64%) in Florida.

He is routinely playing 22-plus minutes and that will no doubt remain the case with the team's season on the line. It's also worth noting Barkov has a strong history against the Golden Knights, going over in four of six meetings while attempting at least five shots in all but one of them.

Win or lose, I'm expecting Barkov to get his fair share of looks on net.

Matthew Tkachuk over 3.5 shots (-110)

Double dip? Double dip! We're running it back with another Panthers shooter.

Tkachuk is a monster on home ice. He's registered at least four shots in 30 of 46 games in Florida, hitting at a healthy 65% clip. He has enjoyed success against the Golden Knights, too, going over the number in three of four meetings this year.

Tkachuk himself talked about simplifying things and getting more pucks on Hill in this game. He'll certainly have a plethora of opportunities to do just that, as the puck is always on his stick in the offensive zone and he's going to get as many minutes as he can handle.

Look for him to make the most of them.

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

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