DEVILS 3, PANTHERS 2: Dainius Zubrus had a goal and an assist and Patrik Elias netted his 41st career playoff tally as visiting New Jersey won the opener of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Veteran Martin Brodeur made 24 saves to earn his 100th career playoff victory.
Elias got the Devils on the board at 6:31 of the first period when he outwaited a sprawling Jose Theodore and fired top shelf to give New Jersey the early edge.
Zubrus and Ryan Carter scored 45 seconds apart later in the session to give the Devils a commanding 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The Panthers responded in the second period with markers from Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg.
The Florida crowd threw plastic rats on the ice after Bergenheim's marker at 7:44 and Versteeg's goal was his sixth in five games against the Devils this season.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Elias now has 41 goals and 77 assists in 139 career playoff games. ... The Panthers played their first postseason game since 2000. ... The Devils fired 26 shots at Theodore in the opening frame. Theodore finished with 35 saves. ... New Jersey has won its last seven games.