At the end of morning skate Saturday, the Panthers formed a circle around quasi-captain Ed Jovanovski for some inspirational words.

The gist of the grey-bearded Jovanovski's pearls of wisdom were to, "enjoy the moment.''

They took his advice to heart and thoroughly enjoyed all 60 minutes of hard-hitting, blood-inducing playoff hockey as they rode the goaltending of Jose Theodore and offensive skills of Kris Versteeg to a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils for a commanding 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal Saturday night in front of a franchise-record, racous, red-clad playoff crowd of 19,513 in BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers have a chance to win their first playoff series since the 1996 conference finals on Tuesday in Newark where the Devils are just 4-8 in the postseason. The Devils fall to 12-7 in Game 5s when they were tied at 2-2. They're 2-5 in series that they trail 2-3.

The Panthers are now 2-1 in Game 5s when knotted at 2-2, including a double-overtime win over Philadelphia in the 1996 Eastern Conference semifinals, which they clinched in Game 6. That was the only time Florida has been up 3-2 in a playoff series until now.

All teams that lead 3-2 go on to win 79.3 percent of those playoff series (257-67), while teams that take a 3-2 lead after being tied at 2-2 are 173-43 (80 percent), according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Theodore, who was pulled for Scott Clemmensen 6:16 into Game 3 after giving up three goals and didn't play at all in Game 4, notched 30 saves for his second career playoff shutout, but first since April 19, 2004 when the Canadiens blanked the Bruins in Game 7 of a quarterfinal series.

Theodore made several sensational saves throughout the game.

"For me, that's Theo," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's what I expected out of him. He gets sat a game and he comes back, that's a true professional. That's what my full expectation was, is how he played tonight."