The New Jersey Devils marched through the truncated 1994-95 regular season like a team on a mission. The Devils, after their best regular season in franchise history in 1993-94 when they finished second in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL with 106 points, fell in seven hard fought games to their arch-nemesis, the New York Rangers, in the Eastern Conference Finals. With a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals just one overtime goal away from being a reality instead of a dream in 1994, the Devils were determined to get to the hockey promised land in 1995.
New Jersey finished sixth in the Eastern Conference during the regular season in 1994-95 and defeated the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the top seed in the conference, the Philadelphia Flyers, on their way to the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. They were the underdogs against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings in the Finals but pulled off an improbable sweep to become Stanley Cup Champions for the first time.
Here are the Top 5 New Jersey Devils 1995 Stanley Cup Finals Moments:
1) Devils Bedevil Detroit in Finals Debut
The Red Wings were a perfect 8-0 on home ice entering the Finals. Less than ten minutes into the first period, Stephane Richer put the Devils ahead 1-0 to put Detroit on their heels early. Dino Ciccarelli tied it for the Red Wings late in the second period but eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux put New Jersey back ahead 3:17 into the third period. Spearheaded by head coach Jacques Lemaire and his “trap” style of defense, the Devils put the clamps on the high-flying Detroit offense for much of the game and won 2-1. The Red Wings were held to just 17 shots on goal with Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur coming up with the key stops.
2) “The Hit” and “The Goal”
The Devils and Red Wings were knotted at one goal apiece with under seven minutes to play in the second period of Game 2 when Detroit forward Slava Kozlov received a pass in the neutral zone by Sergei Fedorov. After entering the Devils zone, New Jersey captain Scott Stevens delivered one of his signature hits on the grandest stage.
Scott Stevens levels Slava Kozlov as well as teammate Scott Niedermayer:
The Red Wings responded with a goal early in the final frame but the Devils took control of the game, and the series, later in the period. Part of the collateral damage in the hit was defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Drafted 3rd overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Niedermayer became one of the Devils top offensive defenseman during his career. His effortless and smooth skating style was his trademark and with the Devils trailing 2-1 just before the midway point of the period Niedermayer took the puck from his team’s own end, skated across the ice, banked the puck off of the end boards, and then buried the puck in the net to tie the score.
Scott Niedermayer’s memorable goal:
3) Jersey Jim Dowd Delivers
Born on Christmas Day 1968 in Brick, NJ, Devils center Jim Dowd became the first player in team history to be born and raised in New Jersey. He had just 27 NHL games along with six goals on his resume entering the 1995 postseason. On the contrary, he did have 29 games of playoff experience including playing in 10 of the Devils prior 17 playoff games in 1995. Then in the only Stanley Cup Finals game he would ever play during his career, he scored the biggest goal of his life.
With the score tied at two in the final minutes of Game 2 after Niedermayer’s goal, defenseman Shawn Chambers blasted a shot from the blue line that goaltender Mike Vernon stopped but could not smother. At the doorstep of the crease, Dowd slid the rebound into the net at the 18:36 mark of the third period to give the Devils a 3-2 lead. They would go on to win 4-2.
The biggest goal of Jim Dowd’s career was scored on June 20th, 1995:
4) Five Different Devils Light the Lamp
After taking both games in Detroit, the series shifted to the Meadowlands for Game 3. On the road the Devils already set the record for most road wins in a playoff year with ten victories but on home ice they struggled. In seven home contests on their way to the Finals, the Devils won just four games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils also brought a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on home ice but lost the next two games at Brendan Byrne Arena.
This time would be different. Neal Broten, Randy McKay, Bruce Driver and Lemieux each scored for Jersey’s Team to chase Vernon from the crease. Bobby Holik scored on backup Chris Osgood to bring the score to 5-2. John MacLean and Stevens each added a pair of assists in the 5-2 victory and Brodeur stopped 22 of 24 Detroit shots to bring the Devils to within one game of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
5) “The Championship to New Jersey, the Devils win the Stanley Cup!” –Doc Emrick
June 24th, 1995, will forever be a day for Devils fans to celebrate. On this night, the Devils skated to their second consecutive 5-2 victory over the Red Wings to clinch their first Stanley Cup Championship. After Broten opened the scoring, Fedorov and Paul Coffey scored to give Detroit their first lead since the third period of Game 2. Later in the period, Chambers drilled home the equalizer for the Devils.
7:56 into the second period Broten buried a loose puck for his second goal of the game and the eventual Cup-winning goal. Sergei Brylin, the only forward to have played on all three New Jersey Stanley Cup championship teams, put the Devils ahead by two in the third period. Chambers brought the sellout crowd of 19,040 fans to the realization they would be a part of history with his second goal of the night to put the game away at 13:32. Bill Guerin had the most points in the clinching game with three assists while Devils enforcer Mike Peluso shed the most tears in the waning minutes of play. The Devils stifling defense limited the Red Wings to just one shot in the third period while Brodeur stopped 14 of 16 shots overall by Detroit.
The championship was overwhelming for Devils enforcer Mike Peluso, seen here after a fight. Tears of joy streamed down his face in the final moments of Game 4.
13 years after moving to the Garden State from Denver where they played as the Colorado Rockies and 22 years after entering the NHL as the expansion Kansas City Scouts, the New Jersey Devils were Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in franchise history.
Watch and listen to the final minute of Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals: