BRANDON, Fla. — After Steven Stamkos stepped off the Lightning’s practice rink on a 90-degree June day, the Tampa Bay captain made it clear he is well aware that he hasn’t scored a goal yet in his first Stanley Cup Final.

Stamkos and his Lightning teammates are determined to keep their cool and their focus when this exceptionally even series with the Chicago Blackhawks begins its sprint to the finish in Game 5 on Saturday night.

“Keep playing the game the right way, and eventually you’re going to get rewarded,” Stamkos said Friday.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane feels much the same way, both about his own goalless final and the Blackhawks’ game in general. Both stars are hoping for that breakthrough score this weekend at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, where either the Lightning or the Blackhawks will end the 2-2 series tie and move one win away from a title.

The Lightning and the Blackhawks realize the enormous stakes for Game 5 in a series that still hasn’t featured a two-goal lead for either team. They’re also attempting to direct that excitement into motivation instead of intimidation.

“You’ve got to get caught up in the moment,” Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper said. “You have to embrace where we are. It’s the middle of June, and we’re still playing hockey. The Stanley Cup is up for grabs in the best-two-out-of-three. I don’t think we should be afraid of that. I don’t think we should walk around being tense and looking at the magnitude of where we are, being afraid of the moment. This is the time of our lives.”

Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman have embraced this moment better than anyone. Stamkos, Kane and the Final’s quiet forwards have been upstaged by these two star defensemen, who are both turning in dominant playoff performances.

In a postseason missing a breakout offensive performance or a dominant goaltending run, Keith or Hedman are the odds-on favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP. Barring a spectacular pile of goals from a forward, the series winner seems likely to feature the first defenseman to claim the Conn Smythe since Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer in 2007.

Keith and Hedman are 1-2 in the NHL in postseason plus-minus ratings and total minutes. Keith leads the playoffs with 18 assists during his incredible extended ice time, while Hedman has set franchise playoff records for assists and points by a defenseman.

INJURED LIGHTNING GOALIE Ben Bishop’s status is unknown for Game 5.

Bishop, a former UMaine goalie, sat out the Lightning’s 2-1 loss in Game 4 Wednesday with an undisclosed lower body injury. He didn’t practice Friday.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will get another start if Bishop can’t go. The 20-year-old Russian rookie won Game 2 in relief, and played well in Wednesday’s loss.


A judge granted a temporary restraining order requested by the Arizona Coyotes to prevent the city of Glendale from dissolving its arena lease agreement with the team.

The order does not address whether the city must make the next payment due to IceArizona, the Coyotes’ owner, for operating the arena.

Coyotes officials say the restraining order is needed to stop the city’s “improper attempt” to void a 15-year agreement to play at the Gila River Arena.

The Glendale City Council voted Wednesday to void the agreement, angering the team and fans and creating uncertainty about the team’s future.

The Coyotes signed the $225 million lease agreement for the arena with the city in 2013.