Devils Burn Bolts at The Rock

The mountain that the Devils were challenged to climb now looks more like a hill, thanks to their Monday night machinations at The Rock.

A win will do that and turn Wednesday night’s collision with the Lightning even more enthralling for the boys from Newark. After all, they matched first-place Tampa, shot for shot, hit for hit and all the other good things from a tough hockey game.

[Watch Game 4 Wednesday at 7 PM on MSG, MSG+ & MSG GO]

By defeating heavily-favored Bolts 5-2, Coach John Hynes’ skaters not only have their confidence restored but also may have inserted a few ounces of fear in the Visitors.

Paced by potential NHL MVP Taylor Hall, the Devils fought from behind after the Lightning took the lead on two separate occasions and each time the Garden Staters battled back.

“It wasn’t my first playoff win,” Hall demurred, “it was OUR first playoff win. The intensity in this series has gone up. The atmosphere was everything we could have asked for. The fans really pushed us over the edge.”

Apart from Hall, Devils scorers included defenseman Will Butcher, right wing Stefan Noesenhe got the winner — along with two empty-netters; first left wing Blake Coleman and the second via D-man Ben Lovejoy.

“Guys stepped up tonight,” added Hall, “whether it was with a goal, a blocked shot, or a big save.”

He had to be talking about Cory Schneider, whose dramatic appearance and 34 saves were the game-turner for New Jersey despite what appeared to be a serious third-period injury but turned out to only be cramps.

“It was a little tightness,” said Schneider, who certainly will start Game 4 on Wednesday. “As for my feelings, it was a funny game but we stuck with it, stayed determined and didn’t let it get away.

“Oh yeah, we didn’t give up and the guys were doing everything they could to block shots. It was in every sense a group effort.”

Some of Cory’s best work included a flurry of intense saves made in desperation just past the midway point of the third period. It was evident throughout that Schneider — along with the sellout crowd — inspired the Garden Staters.

“(Brian) Boyle and I looked at each other halfway through the game,” explained Blake Coleman, “and said to each other, ‘This is the Cory [Schneider] that we know.'”

Sidelined with a concussion for just under three months, forward Marcus Johansson was finally inserted into the lineup and was another of the unsung heroes, obviously enthused about his return and the win.

“There’s no quit on this team,” said Johansson. “We worked all year to get to the position we’re in and when you’re down, you can’t just drop dead and quit playing.

“They won two home games so if we do our job and win our games at home, all we have to do is beat them once there.”

Devils coach John Hynes: “The biggest thing with Marcus was how he played; the way that he played had an impact on the team. That was the most important thing.”

The game was closer than the score would indicate and finally tilted in the Devils favor at 19:02 when Coleman potted the open-netter.

“We chipped away at their top players and we had a more aggressive mindset,” Coleman noted. “We showed them a little too much respect earlier in the series.”

The match was spiced with some intense hitting and not-so-clean play — Devils rookie Nico Hischier was speared by Bolts huge defenseman Victor Hedman late in the third but no penalty was called on the play.

A brawl erupted in the last minute with Brian Boyle and Mikhail Sergachev flailing away.

“There was a lot of emotional involvement in this game,” Schneider commented. “I think we’re getting on each other’s nerves.”

Fortunately, Cool Hand Taylor avoided any fisticuffs but was a keen observer of the on-ice nastiness.

“We have things we’re gonna have to fix, but the cooler heads will prevail,” Hall predicted. “Let them do all of the extracurriculars.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper blamed his club’s defeat on, “a lack of discipline. Every penalty was 200 feet from our net. We just kept taking penalties.”

Praising the Devils for their work ethic, Cooper singled out Hall as a “superstar” and added that, “It’s not that they’re sneaking up on us.”

No, Hynes’ sextet more than likely will be coming at the Bolts on Wednesday like Gang Busters. Sneaking up is not necessary.

After all, they’re off the mountain and on the hill.

What’s more, it could be downhill for the Lightning!

We shall see in a series that’s getting more exciting by the night.

[Watch Game 4 Wednesday at 7 PM on MSG, MSG+ & MSG GO]