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DEVIL OF A NIGHT: Thomas, Schneider Star although Zidlicky Gets OT Winner for Devils

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEWARK, N.J. -- It may not have had the soundtrack of Billy Joel, but Tim Thomas and Cory Schneider sure put on a show Saturday night.

There would be no encore at Prudential Center, however, as Thomas stormed off the ice after Marek Zidlicky's one-timer zipped past him with two-plus seconds left in overtime as the Devils won 2-1.

"I was aware that must have been an entertaining game for the fans,'' said Thomas, who stopped 34 saves including 15 from the third period on. "I was just trying to be the guy who didn't get scored on.''

Florida picked up a point in the standings with the overtime loss although coach Peter Horachek sure wasn't happy afterward.

The Panthers didn't do much of anything for the first two periods save for have Thomas in net. In the third, the two goalies traded saves. Although Florida defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson made some sacrificial blocks to help out Thomas, Horachek was steamed the Devils forged into the Florida zone with such ease.

"We didn't deserve anything; we got a point we didn't deserve,'' Horachek said. "They outplayed us much of the game. We had scoring chances but were terrible in our own zone. We gave up a lot of chances. A lot of guys weren't playing, didn't compete. We scratched a point out of it. Tim Thomas played well, kept us in it.''

Florida went 1-1-1 on this three-game road trip with lost opportunity at the start and finish. Although the Panthers didn't play very well in New Jersey, had they held off the Devils in the final seconds of overtime, that second point in the standings may have been theirs.

Although the Panthers have been pretty good in the shootout by winning six of 11, the Devils have been dreadful and are winless in six.

That was all moot when Travis Zajac won the final faceoff and the puck got to Zidlicky. Nick Bjugstad said the shot went off his stick and changed its trajectory as it headed toward Thomas.

"That's about as bad as it could end,'' said Bjugstad, who tied the score at 1 in the second by driving in on Schnieder and powering a Tomas Fleischmann feed through.

"That puck had eyes.''

The Panthers had a few early chances against Schneider including a Tomas Kopecky shorthanded chance in the second. That was one of just two Florida shots on goal in the opening 11 minutes of the period with Bjugstad scoring the equalizer just before the 12 minute mark.

Both Sean Bergenheim and Fleischmann had chances to end it in the final seconds of regulation with Aleksander Barkov getting a prime scoring opportunity early in OT.

"We were hoping to get to the shootout at the end of it,'' Horachek said. "Odds are pretty good, we've had some success. But we didn't deserve it. I'm disappointed with the effort.''

-- Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov broke his capped front teeth after taking a stick to the face Thursday in Buffalo. Kulikov, at least temporarily, has two jagged nubs where his teeth used to be.

"I spit them into my glove,'' Kulikov said. "Not fun.''

-- Former Heat center Shaquille O'Neal wore a very snug Devils jersey and dropped the ceremonial first puck before Saturday's game.

O'Neal is a Newark native and showed up early Saturday night to drive the Zamboni around the ice with the Devils mascot riding shotgun.

 

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