TORONTO — Remember the guys in the old black-and-white movies who got stuck in quicksand? Whatever they did to get out, they still were sucked slowly down.
That kind of sums up the Lightning, which showed resiliency Thursday night to overcome two one-goal deficits but fell 4-3 in overtime to the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre to drop another point back in the playoff race.
"We need every last point we can get," defenseman Mike Lundin said. "By not getting these points, we're digging ourselves deeper."
Tampa Bay (27-28-11), on a 1-6-1 streak and winless in five straight on the road, is six points and two teams behind the Bruins — who beat the Flyers on Thursday — for the last playoff spot in the East, the only position that seems even remotely feasible with 16 games left.
"Six points is a lot, but it can be done," left wing Marty St. Louis said. "Obviously, you need help from some other teams. But it's not like there are three games left. We just have to win one game and get on a run. We haven't been able to do that in a long time."
The goaltending lately of Mike Smith and Antero Niittymaki has not helped.
Phil Kessel scored the winner 3:33 into the extra period at the end of a two-on-one, but two goals by Viktor Stalberg should never have happened.
One, at the end of a two-on-one, went in off of Smith's glove to make the score 1-1 9:20 into the first period. The next, which made it 2-1 3:47 into the second, was an extreme-angle floater that went through Smith's legs.
Both two-on-ones were sparked by turnovers, but as coach Rick Tocchet said, "It seems every time we make a mistake, it's in our net. So that's the tough thing to swallow. You have to keep the guys up and the energy level because that's demoralizing."
Uplifting was Steven Stamkos, who scored his 42nd goal and team-record 18th on the power play for a 1-0 first-period lead.
Also notable were goals by defenseman Kurtis Foster, whose booming slap shot tied the score 2-2, and Steve Downie, who made it 3-3 5:00 into the third.
Tampa Bay, which got a point for the regulation tie, pushed hard in overtime for the winner with St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steve Downie on the ice for more than a minute. But Tyler Bozak picked off Lecavalier's misfired pass that St. Louis, perhaps, could have taken a better angle to receive to spark Kessel's goal.
"I don't have any regrets with how that shift went," St. Louis said, "other than getting the loss."
"At least we got a point there," Stamkos said.
Which only slowed the work of the quicksand.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 42 (K.Foster, Lecavalier), 18:17 (pp). Penalties—Gunnarsson, Tor (tripping), 5:13; Phaneuf, Tor (interference), 17:36.
Second Period—2, Toronto, Stalberg 4 (Caputi, Schenn), 9:29. 3, Toronto, Stalberg 5 (Caputi, Grabovski), 16:17. 4, Tampa Bay, K.Foster 8 (Stamkos, St. Louis), 16:41. Penalties—Downie, TB (slashing), 11:38; Downie, TB (roughing), 18:03; Phaneuf, Tor (roughing), 18:03.
Third Period—5, Toronto, Bozak 5 (Kessel, Kulemin), 3:37. 6, Tampa Bay, Downie 17 (Lundin, St. Louis), 5:00. Penalties—Lundin, TB (high-sticking), 13:04.
Overtime—7, Toronto, Kessel 23 (Bozak), 3:33. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 14-7-9-3—33. Toronto 9-11-13-5—38. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Toronto 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 10-15-7 (38 shots-34 saves). Toronto, Giguere 7-12-6 (33-30). A—19,110 (18,819).