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Stamkos focused on producing, rallying Lightning

by Paul Harris /

DETROIT -- With the Tampa Bay Lightning down 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Eastern Conference First Round, all eyes are on Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning center and captain had 43 goals during the regular season, but has been held to two assists in the first three games of the best-of-7 series.

"I just think, personally, I've got to be better, like all of us," Stamkos said after practice Wednesday. "Take a good look in the mirror … like all of us. We can be better."

Tampa Bay was shut out 3-0 in Game 3 on Tuesday, when Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek made 22 saves. Game 4 is Thursday at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-F, FS-D).

Despite splitting the first two games in Tampa, the Lightning soundly outplayed the Red Wings. Tampa Bay had a 76-38 shots advantage in the first two games, and each of Stamkos' assists came in the Lightning's 5-1 win in Game 2 on Saturday.

"I'll continue to compete hard, and we'll try to get back to what we did well in the first two games," said Stamkos, who has 11 shots in the series, eight of which came in Game 1.

"He's battling. He's playing hard. He maybe wants to get a few more looks than he did [Tuesday]," Tampa Bay center Brian Boyle said after Game 3. "Everybody kind of has a little less space than they do maybe in the regular season, especially a guy like him. He's a superstar.

"He's a competitive guy. He's going to battle too. He's going to figure out a way."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper agrees with Boyle.

"The thing about [Stamkos] is that he's done it on numerous occasions for us. So you see a couple of close games and he doesn't do it, bells go off," Cooper said. "[Stamkos] got a couple of assists. The guys who have done it on numerous occasions, there's a weight on their shoulders. … Does [Stamkos] wish he had gotten a goal or two in this series? Sure. Do I think Detroit is going to hold him down for the whole series? No, I don't."

Eyebrows were raised when Stamkos didn't get on the ice for Tampa Bay's first power play in Game 3.

"Well, we have two power-play units, and he plays on one of them and he plays quite a bit," Cooper said afterward.

Stamkos also wasn't on the ice when Red Wings forward Luke Glendening scored an empty-net goal after the Lightning had pulled goalie Ben Bishop for the extra attacker.

But Stamkos was on the ice right before Cooper pulled Bishop.

"When we pulled the goalie, we didn't want to use the timeout. If you remember, they got caught in their end and they were gassed," Cooper said. "We have two units that regularly go out there in all of those situations.

"Most of the time, he is out there on those situations, but it just turned out the way the timing went, he had been out there for 30-40 seconds, and we didn't want to burn the timeout at that point if we needed it later and we didn't need to burn the timeout, so we just followed up with [Tyler Johnson's] line."

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