NEWARK, N.J. — It is a series now.
The Devils found a way to slow the Lightning's offense and grinded their way to a 5-2 victory Monday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals.
The Lightning leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Prudential Center.
Stefan Noesen's goal with 7:05 to play was the difference. Blake Coleman and Ben Lovejoy scored empty-net goals in the final minute.
The Lightning knew what it was up against: A team desperately trying not to go down 3-0 , a building full of fans who had not seen a home playoff game since 2012 and a talented team that pushed back after falling behind by three and four goals, respectively, in Games 1 and 2.
"We know what we did in Game 1 and 2 is not good enough," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Monday's morning skate. "We have to raise our game again to the results we need here or it's going to be a tough one."
The Lightning did raise its game, but the Devils matched it. Exceeded it, too.
The pressure was on the Devils, and the Lightning brought the momentum of a 2-0 series lead after scoring 10 goals in the first two wins.
"We're not going to take them lightly because we're up two," J.T. Miller said Monday morning. He mentioned the crowd, which he is familiar with having played in the building often as a member of the Rangers.
"Both teams want to win bad," Miller added. "I think they know and so do we that this is a big game. It can really set the tone for the rest of the series."
The Devils seized momentum midway through the first period and withstood a pair of one-goal deficits.
Noesen's goal, his first of the series, gave the Devils their first lead in three games. Cory Schneider, who was outstanding in his return to the starting role, made it stand up.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was pretty good, too.
Jersey had the momentum as the first period ended, but the Lightning was again on the power play.
Miller, a key piece of the Lightning's top power-play unit, spent the end of the period in the trainer's room after taking a puck to the side of his face. He dropped his gloves and pulled off his helmet as he skated off.
But Miller was out for the faceoff to start the third, and the Lightning power play did what it has been doing this series — scoring. This time it was Steven Stamkos, and the Lightning was back in front.
But not for long.
With Cedric Paquette in the box for tripping, the Lighting was called for too many men on the ice. Skating with a 5-on-3 advantage, it took the Devils only 24 seconds to tie the score. Will Butcher beat Vasilevskiy top shelf from the top of the faceoff circle.
Once again a bad clearing attempt after a save by Vasilevskiy led directly to a Jersey goal.
In Game 2 it was Anton Stalman who put the puck on the stick of a Devil. On Monday, it was Victor Hedman, and he put it on the stick of Taylor Hall, who beat Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the series.
The goal came not long after the Devils killed off a penalty, and it was a rather aggressive kill. It produced a pair of shorthanded shots, both by Coleman. On the first, Vasilevskiy stopped the puck next to the post, but it squirted past him when Coleman pushed Hedman into the goalie and dislodging the net. Obviously, the goal was waved off.
But seconds later Coleman sped up the right boards with the Devils on a 2-on-1 and got off a shot that Vasilevskiy stopped.
The Lightning scored first, and again it was a power-play goal and again it came from Alex Killorn. It came 42 seconds into the second on a power play that carried over from the first period.
Like his two power-play goals Saturday, Killorn was stationed in front of the net. That's where Kucherov found him.
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50