Time keeps ticking and the season keeps slipping away.

With 21 games left and the climb already a steep trek, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a must-win game tonight in hosting Southeast Division leader Carolina.

Tampa Bay trails the Hurricanes by eight points in the division standings. A win in regulation will close that gap to a manageable six points. Failure to pick up a victory widens the gap to a canyon-like deficit.

And though the Lightning claim every game from here on carries extra importance no matter the opponent, facing the division leader brings even more weight to the equation.

"We are not in a position to think otherwise right now; we have to get points and that's the only way we are going to give ourselves a chance to climb back into the race,'' center Steven Stamkos said.

"It's tough and it's frustrating, but there are no other options. We have to find ways to win games, at least get a point in games where things are not going as well as you want.''

One area Tampa Bay would like to improve is getting shots on net. In the past two games, the Lightning generated a total of 31 shots. Though they managed to win at Florida, 3-2, they were shut out by the New York Islanders on Thursday, 2-0.