Detroit — Five games into the first-round playoff series and Lightning forward Steven Stamkos remains without a goal.
And with Tampa Bay on the edge of being eliminated tonight — the Red Wings lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 — Stamkos is getting frustrated by his inability to score.
"It's tough, obviously I want to produce and it's not for lack of effort," said Stamkos, who scored 43 goals during the regular season but hasn't scored over his last eight playoff games dating to last season. "In fact, I'm working my butt off out there. It's just not going like I want it.
"Obviously I want to help our team win. No one else is feeling sorry for us or myself. We realize we've got to work hard and we'll keep doing like we're doing."
The Red Wings have done an effective job taking away Stamkos' time and space and not allowing him an opportunity to unleash one of the better shots in the league.
Stamkos was held to only two shots in Game 5 in 19 minutes of ice time.
For the series, Stamkos has two assists and a minus-1 rating. His 17 shots on net ties Tyler Johnson for the Lightning team lead.
Coach Mike Babcock stressed on several occasions Sunday the Red Wings are in a bigger battle than one player.
"We're not playing Stammer, we're playing Tampa Bay," Babcock said. "We're not playing against Stamkos, we're preparing to play against Tampa Bay. We're in a good situation, we're playing in our building, we've won three games and the goal is to win four.
"They have a lot of guys with skill."
All the Red Wings really needed Saturday was Riley Sheahan's power-play goal with 23 seconds left in the first period.
It was Sheahan's second goal of the playoffs and continued his improved play since moving into a third-line center role.
With Justin Abdelkader unavailable beause of a hand injury the first two games, and Babcock forced to play Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together, Sheahan centered the second line and struggled.
"Riley Sheahan, after a tough start, has really become Riley again," Babcock said.
But Babcock maintains it's largely all due to Abdelkader returning, Datsyuk and Zetterberg both centering lines, and Sheahan going into a comfortable role.
"It gives us overall depth," Babcock said. "Suddenly we have four centers instead of two. It's a big difference."
Zetterberg has seen a natural progression in the young player.
"He's a big piece of this team," Zetterberg said. "You saw it last year with a lot of injuries, he took the team on his shoulders and played first line minutes and he's been doing it this year, too.
"When you score a goal, you get confidence. He's been doing a lot of good things. He's an all-around player, plays in all situations. When he gets his chance, he shoots it pretty well."
The Red Wings had a similar opportunity in 2013, able to close out Chicago in Game 6 at Joe Louis Area, but lost — then lost in Game 7 in Chicago in overtime.
"I haven't even thought about it," Niklas Kronwall said. "What happened in the past is in the past. We're looking forward to the opportunity we have ahead of us. We just have to keep getting better."
… The Red Wings held a quick optional practice Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.
… Zetterberg said the Red Wings' veteran leaders attempt to lead by example rather than with loud speeches.
"When we speak it comes natural," Zetterberg said. "We try and show it on the iceand show it off the ice, too. We've been playing together for a long time and been playing with great leaders all of our careers here, learning from (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Steve) Yzerman, (Kris) Draper, (Chris) Chelios. We just try to do the same things they did."