The New Jersey Devils have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on ten occasions and won seven of those series. From a record-setting performance by Patrik Sundstrom in 1988 through a series victory over the favored Philadelphia Flyers in 2012, the Devils have had many memorable second round moments.
Here are the Top Five New Jersey Devils Second Round Moments:
1) April 22, 1988 vs. Washington Capitals: A Record Setting Night for Patrik Sundstrom
The Devils and Washington Capitals split the first two games of the 1988 Patrick Division Finals in the nation’s capital. Heading back to the Meadowlands for Game 3, each team was looking for an edge. In a game that ending up containing 231 PIM, including 108 for the Devils, it was an offensive show for the Devils top line. Mark Johnson, John MacLean, and Patrik Sundstrom combined for 7 goals and 7 assists as the Devils defeated the Capitals 10-4.
Watch as Patrik Sundstrom gets a hat trick on the way to setting an NHL record:
Johnson scored four goals but it was even more special of a night for Sundstrom. He set an NHL record for most points in a postseason game with eight. He buried three goals, added five assists, and even joined the party to the penalty box by picking up a minor penalty. The Devils fell in Game 4 4-1 but prevailed in seven games to win their first and only Patrick Division Championship. The record, previously held by Wayne Gretzky with seven points and matched by Mario Lemieux in the following playoffs, still stands as of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2) May 22, 1995 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Captain Comes Through
Captain Scott Stevens scored one goal during the playoff run that led the Devils to the 1995 Stanley Cup Championship but it may have kept the Devils season alive. The Devils dropped the opening game of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Pittsburgh Penguins but held a 2-1 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third period of Game 2. Then their lead vanished. Future Devil Jaromir Jagr, at the foot of the crease, received the puck from Larry Murphy and threw it towards the goal. It deflected off Devils defenseman Tommy Albelin’s skate and ended up behind the outstretched reach of goaltender Martin Brodeur to tie the game.
Before Scott Stevens was able to hoist the Stanley Cup, he scored one of the biggest goals of the Devils 1995 Stanley Cup Championship run.
The captain quickly responded. With under a minute to go, Stevens took the puck from his zone and skated up the ice before blasting the puck towards Penguins net minder Ken Wregget from just outside the Penguins blue line. Wregget stopped the initial shot but failed to control the rebound. Stevens followed up and backhanded the puck into the goal to put the Devils back up by one. The Devils wouldn’t look back as they went to win to defeat the Penguins in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive year.
3) May 8, 2000 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: A-Line Scores a Pair; Defense Holds Toronto to Record Low Six Shots
The Devils were one victory away from eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals and wasted little time in setting a tone. With a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6, Jason Arnott, the center on the Devils A-line along with wingers Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, dumped the puck into the Toronto zone off the opening faceoff where Elias chased it down. After his initial pass to Arnott in front of the goal failed he threw the puck towards the crease again. Just 18 seconds into the game Sykora buried home the loose puck in front of the net to give the Devils an early 1-0 lead.
Just 25 seconds into the second period the A-line struck again. Sykora, from behind the Toronto goal line, quickly passed the puck to Arnott in the slot where he blasted the puck past goaltender Curtis Joseph to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead. John Madden added an empty-net goal in the third.
The real story of the game, however, was the stifling effort by the Devils defense. Led by Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko, Vladimir Malakhov, and rookies Brian Rafalski, and Colin White, the Devils held the Maple Leafs to a record-low six shots on goal. The Leafs mustered three shots in the first period, two in the second, and just one shot on net in the third. Sergei Berezin got credit for half of the Toronto shots. Brodeur was in net for the easiest, or hardest in terms of staying alert, shutout of this career.
4) 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Rally
In 2001, the Devils and Maple Leafs met for the second consecutive year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This time, however, the Devils were the team that faced elimination in the opposing team’s building in Game 6.
The Maple Leafs took Game 1 2-0 before the Devils responded with a pair of overtime victories. After blowing a three-goal lead in the third period of Game 2 the Devils managed to survive when Randy McKay potted home the overtime winner. Rafalski picked up the winner in Game 3 when an intended pass to McKay deflected into the net off of Maple Leafs defenseman Cory Cross. The Maple Leafs responded with a victory of their own but the real story of Game 4 was the unnecessary and vicious attack on Niedermayer by Leafs forward Tie Domi. Domi elbowed Niedermayer in the head in the final moments of Game 4 and Niedermayer, knocked out cold, would not return to the Devils lineup until Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Without Niedermayer the Devils dropped Game 5 and faced elimination for the first time that spring.
Sykora opened the scoring in Game 6 early in the first period when he ripped a shot past Joseph from just inside the zone. The Leafs tied the score but the Devils regained the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the second period when McKay buried a power play goal. With just seven seconds left in the frame the Devils scored again when Rafalski scored from the slot. The Devils wouldn’t look back and Rafalski’s goal would hold up as the winner as they won 4-2.
In the first Game 7 at the Meadowlands since 1999, the Devils entered the second period down 1-0. Then their offense erupted. Sergei Nemchinov tied the game and then Elias scored twice to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. Later in the second period McKay fed Stevens at the point and the ensuing shot by the Devils captain put New Jersey up by three. Madden finished the scoring in the Devils 5-1 win with a goal of his own in the third period as the Devils overcame a 3-2 series deficit to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
5) May 2, 2003: “Marshall! In overtime! The Devils win it!”
The Devils entered Game 5 of the 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Meadowlands with a 3-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Each team lit the lamp in the opening period with Niedermayer scoring for New Jersey. That was all for regulation as Brodeur and John Grahame, making his first appearance ever in a postseason contest, stopped everything else that came their way. After a pair of scoreless overtimes, the second-longest game in Devils history would finally come to a close when Grant Marshall scored off the rebound of Niedermayer’s initial shot at 11:12 of the third overtime. Marshall’s goal, the only game-winning postseason goal in his career, sent the Devils to the third round for the third time in four years. The Devils would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in their history.
Watch Grant Marshall and listen to Doc Emrick as the Devils win in triple overtime:
Honorable Mention: May 6, 2012: Happy Birthday Martin Brodeur!
On Brodeur’s 40th birthday, he turned aside 20 of 22 shots by the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In the process, Brodeur became the first goaltender in NHL history to play in a postseason game as a teenager and as a 40-year old. After the Flyers built a 2-0 lead, Brodeur shut them down the rest of the way while Sykora and Marek Zidlicky scored to tie the game. Dainius Zubrus scored the eventual game-winner late in the second period and added an empty-net goal in the final minute to give the Devils a 4-2 victory and a 3-1 series lead. The Devils won Game 5 3-1 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2003.
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.