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

"Keep playing the game the right way, and eventually you're going to get rewarded," Stamkos said yesterday.

When Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks flew through a Florida rainstorm and landed in Tampa several hours later, the Chicago captain placidly confirmed that he and Patrick Kane also know they have one combined goal.

"We just know you've got to keep working, keep finding ways to create chances, and eventually believe that a bounce is going to go your way," Toews said.

The captains are mirrors of calm in an increasingly tense situation, accepting the spotlight that comes in those inevitable stretches when their outsized skills don't light up scoreboards. They're determined to preserve their teams' cool and focus when this series -- tied at 2 -- begins its sprint to the finish in Game 5 tonight.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Lightning and the Blackhawks realize the enormous stakes on every shift of Game 5 in a series that still hasn't featured a two-goal lead. The captains and the coaches are 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. "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."