NEWARK, N.J. -- If aspiring goaltenders want to learn their craft, they should study a tape of the wild, scoreless third period of Saturday's game between the Devils and Panthers.
Two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas and his red-hot Devils counterpart, Cory Schneider, put on an absolute clinic as they both made 13 saves, nearly every one of the spectacular variety.
Just 2.1 seconds more and the Panthers would've gone to their third shootout in their last four games. However, Marek Zidlicky ripped a rising slapper from the top of the faceoff circle to end a weeklong road trip in a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to the stingy Devils at the Prudential Center on Saturday night.
"We got a point but we can play better than that," said Thomas, who made 34 saves and is now 5-1-2 in his last eight games. "I was aware enough to know that must be an entertaining game for the fans. I was just trying not to be the one who got scored on."
With five seconds left, Devils center Travis Zajac beat Marcel Goc on a critical faceoff as the puck found 41-year-old great Jaromir Jagr. He slid it back to Zidlicky at the point where his wicked, low shot clipped a stick and jumped off the crossbar and behind Thomas.
"You can't block that, it's over the post, what are you going to put your head in front of it?" said Panthers coach Peter Horachek, who coached Zidlicky in Nashville for four seasons. "I know him very well. He's got a good shot.
"We got a point, something we didn't deserve. They outplayed us most of the game. A lot of people weren't playing, they didn't compete. We scratched a point out of it. Timmy played well and kept us in it. We were hoping to get a shootout at that point; we've had some success, so that's frustrating."
NBA great and Newark native Shaquille O'Neal dropped the puck on the ceremonial opening faceoff and the goal-starved Panthers certainly could've used the big man's scoring touch around the net. The Panthers, 28th in scoring, went 1-1-1 this past week, scoring just three goals in regulation as they've lost 14 of their last 18 in New Jersey.
Although the Panthers' 30th-ranked power play went 0 for 2 and now hasn't scored in the last six games (0 for 17), the units were frisky with defenseman Brian Campbell ringing the post on one, and Tomas Kopecky getting robbed on a third-period power play as well as a shorthanded breakaway attempt in the second.
"Tim was unbelievable. We just have to capitalize on our chances," Kopecky said. "You got to give (Schneider) credit. He played good, but I think we made it easy for him. He saw all the shots."
While Panthers' killer and all-time winningest goalie Martin Brodeur (39-16-9 vs. Florida) got the night off, 1B goalie Schneider was no slouch with 29 saves. The Devils have scored one goal or less in regulation in 11 of his 21 starts.
The Panthers finally solved Schneider at 11:54 of the second period when Tomas Fleischmann led rookie center Nick Bjugstad perfectly for a redirection at 11:54 for his ninth goal.
"This is as bad as it gets. You got five seconds. The puck had eyes and went in," Bjugstad said. "Timmy had some Top 10 saves. We got to help him out a little bit more. Coming out with one point, we're not satisfied."
After smothering the Devils for most of the first period, a scorching Michael Ryder flicked it past Thomas from the slot in at 15:22 for his team-leading 16th goal.
DeBoer praises Dineen
Devils coach Pete DeBoer, who was replaced by Kevin Dineen as the Panthers coach after the 2010-11 season felt bad when his successor was fired in November, but he understands the business.
"I don't know if it surprised me, you're just disappointed," DeBoer said. "This is a what have you done for me lately league. We went to the finals 24 months ago and people don't talk about that. Kevin brought them to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
"That's just the league. It gets forgotten pretty quickly. He's an excellent coach and will land on his feet somewhere."
Dineen is coaching the Canadian women's Olympic hockey team.
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