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Tampa Bay must make point to win

Terry Crisp understands the point of playoff talk.

But it's the point or two his Tampa Bay Lightning didn't get Thursday night that dampens the chatter about possible post-season play.

"You guys talk playoffs," Crisp said after Tampa Bay lost 5-4 in overtime to New Jersey. "The media is talking about playoffs. But we don't have that luxury.

"All we can do is go out and hope to win every game, and if we win every game that helps."

That the Lightning let a 3-1 second-period lead slip away, though, wasn't the only post-game topic of conversation. There was also the matter of what was washed away with it _ the two points the Lightning would have gotten with a victory.

In early March during an 84-game season, how big are those two points the Devils will take back to Jersey?

"Big," said Rob DiMaio, who had a goal and two assists.

The Lightning entered the game with 56 points, six fewer than Philadelphia and Florida, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

"(A victory) puts us four points back instead of six," DiMaio said, "but there's still time."

But if it wants to be playing beyond the regular season, Tampa Bay better move up in the standings quickly.

"We just have to put two, three, four wins together," DiMaio said, "and get it going."

The Lightning is 24-34-8, and there are only 18 games remaining.

The club returned to the ThunderDome after a 2-2 road trip to western Canada and Washington, D.C., with three home games to play in four nights _ New Jersey on Thursday, Hartford on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Lightning looked to be in position to win when DiMaio assisted on goals by Pat Elynuik and Denis Savard to go up 2-0. DiMaio later tied the score midway through the third period with his seventh goal of the season.

But when New Jersey's John MacLean blew past DiMaio and into Tampa Bay's zone for the game-winner in overtime, those precious points were long gone.

"We felt like it was our game to win, and it's a little demoralizing," DiMaio said. "We're not going to hang our heads down, but we just have to come back on Saturday night. There's a lot of time to get those points back."

Yet the clock is ticking.

"We knew it's a big weekend," Crisp said. "Even a point would have helped."