The New Jersey Devils have advanced to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on seven occasions. After dropping Game 7 in both the 1988 Wales Conference Finals and the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils have won in each of their last five Eastern Conference Finals appearances. From the infamous “doughnut” incident in 1988 through Adam Henrique’s riveting overtime winner in 2012, the Devils have had many memorable third round moments.
Here are the Top 5 New Jersey Devils Third Round Moments:
1)1988 Wales Conference Finals vs. Boston Bruins: “Have Another Doughnut”
After splitting their first two games at the old Boston Garden, the Devils and Bruins series shifted to the Meadowlands. The Bruins dominated New Jersey in Game 3 and won 6-1. Frustrated and angry, Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld lashed out at referee Don Koharski after the game. Koharski slipped in the tunnel that led from the ice towards the dressing rooms but quickly accused the Devils coach of pushing him. Schoenfeld responded that the official fell and added, “Have another doughnut!” The league suspended Schoenfeld for Game 4 but Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello, in his first season with New Jersey, contacted Judge J. F. Madden of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Judge Madden granted the Devils a temporary restraining order that would allow Schoenfeld to stand behind the bench for Game 4.
ABC New York’s video of the incident:
Furious that Schoenfeld was going to coach instead of serve his suspension, the on-ice officials for Game 4, referee Dave Newell and linesmen Ray Scapinello and Gord Broseker, refused to work the game. After an hour delay, Paul McInnis, Jim Sullivan and Vin Godleski, the off-ice officials, were told they would be officiating the critical game. After they were able to gather whatever equipment they could find, the game began and the Devils skated to a 3-1 victory. Each team received 45 penalty minutes.
Schoenfeld’s suspension was upheld in Game 5, which like Game 3, turned into a rout as the Bruins soundly defeated New Jersey 7-1. The Devils responded on home ice with a 6-3 victory but fell to Boston in Game 7. The story of series, however, was the incident following Game 3 that will forever live in Devils lore.
2) 1995 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Philadelphia Flyers: Domination at the Spectrum
The Devils entered their series against the Flyers having won five of their six playoff road games. Facing the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the Devils would be forced to open their third round series at the CoreStates Spectrum, home to one of the league’s most hostile crowds. The Devils weren’t phased.
New Jersey shut down the Flyers top line of Eric Lindros, John LeClair, and Mikael Renberg, known as the Legion of Doom, in Game 1 and went on to defeat the Flyers 4-1. Bill Guerin netted a pair of goals while goaltender Martin Brodeur made 20 saves.
While the Legion of Doom combined for two goals in Game 2, the Devils answered their challenge as they matched a playoff-high with five goals scored. Five different Devils scored a goal and eleven players picked up at least one point in a 5-2 bashing of Philadelphia. Neal Broten picked up the game-winner while Bobby Holik, Randy McKay, John MacLean, and Ken Daneyko also scored for New Jersey. It was Daneyko’s first postseason goal since the 1990 Patrik Division Semi-finals. Eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux added two assists and Brodeur stopped 18 of 20 shots.
Despite taking the first two games, the Devils lost control of the series after the Flyers took both games in New Jersey. With the series tied heading back to Philadelphia for Game 5, the Devils were in search of a hero. Bob Carpenter tallied his only goal of the 1995 playoffs and MacLean also lit the lamp but the Devils were still tied with the Flyers entering the game’s final minute. Then the Devils broke through for their biggest goal of the playoffs. Lemieux carried the puck up the right side of the ice and blasted a slap shot towards Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall. Handcuffed with the shot, Hextall wasn’t able to make the stop and New Jersey got a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they held on for a 3-2 victory. The Devils wouldn’t look back or lose again. They won Game 6 on home ice 4-2 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time where they swept the Presidents’ Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings to capture their first Stanley Cup Championship.
Claude Lemieux’s goal in Game 5 helped give the Devils their third win in three games at the Spectrum:
(Enjoy the Devils robot turning the Flyers robot into a puck courtesy of the old NHL on Fox graphics)
3) 2000 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Philadelphia Flyers: The Comeback
The Devils and Flyers met again five years later and just like in 1995, New Jersey took Game 1 on the road. Scott Niedermayer opened the scoring just 55 seconds into the game, Holik scored his first goal in 27 postseason games, and Brodeur made 35 saves on 36 shots in the Devils 4-1 win.
The Devils looked poised to go up 2-0 in the series when they jumped out to a 3-1 lead in Game 2. Then the Flyers rose from the ashes and stormed back to defeat the Devils 4-3. The surge continued as the series shifted up the Turnpike. The Flyers dominated the lifeless Devils at the Meadowlands and took Game 3 by a final of 4-2 and won Game 4 3-1. Frustrated and angry, Devils head coach Larry Robinson ripped into his team on the bench in the waning moments of Game 4 and the tirade continued into the locker room. Robinson’s blowup would not go unrewarded. Instead, it sparked Jersey’s Team in a way that made history.
New Jersey came out flying on all cylinders in Game 5 and their “A-line” that comprised of center Jason Arnott, left wing Patrik Elias, and right wing Petr Sykora, was at the center of it all. They combined for three goals and three assists while Brodeur made 20 saves to backstop the Devils to a 4-1 win.
Back at the Meadowlands for Game 6, the Flyers welcomed the return of their captain Lindros to the lineup for the first time since the regular season. The Devils were undaunted. Entering the third period scoreless the Devils broke through with Lemieux and deadline acquisition Alexander Mogilny giving the Devils a 2-0 lead. Lindros responded with a late goal of his own but the Devils forced Game 7.
Back in Philadelphia, the Devils opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the game when Elias gave them an early lead. Then the already quiet crowd was left in a state of shock. Lindros carried the puck into the Devils zone but captain Scott Stevens delivered the hit that ended the Flyers portion of the hulking center’s career. Done for the game and as a Flyer, Lindros was helped to the locker room with another concussion. The Flyers rallied and tied the game but with less than three minutes to play Elias scored his second goal of the game from the doorstep of the crease to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead. The Devils held on and became the first team since the 1967 expansion to rally from a three games to one deficit in a conference final. They wouldn’t let up as their momentum eventually carried them to a six-game series win in the Stanley Cup Finals over the Dallas Stars.
Scott Stevens delivers a “wicked hit,” as Darren Pang calls it, on Eric Lindros:
4) 2003 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Ottawa Senators: Toppling the Presidents’ Trophy Winner
The Devils made the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons in 2003. Their prize was a matchup with the best team in the NHL during the regular season, the Ottawa Senators. The Devils had no problem rising to the challenge. After dropping Game 1 in overtime 3-2, New Jersey responded with three consecutive victories including a shutdown 1-0 performance in Game 3 behind Sergei Brylin’s goal and an exciting offensive bonanza in Game 4 when they won 5-2. However, the Senators would not go down without a fight. They took Game 5 3-1 and Chris Phillips picked up the overtime winner at the Meadowlands in Game 6 to force a Game 7.
On the right side of history in 2000, the Devils were looking to be sure not to be on the wrong side in 2003. The Senators had other ideas as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead in Game 7. Jamie Langenbrunner responded with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart in the second period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead entering the third. Early in the third a giveaway by Jeff Friesen proved costly as Radek Bonk tied the game 1:53 into the final frame. The Senators matched their combined shot total during the first two periods when they peppered Brodeur with 13 shots in the third. After Bonk’s goal, Brodeur wouldn’t blink again.
With the clinching game tied in the final three minutes, Grant Marshall, already a playoff hero after his series clinching goal in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, raced up the left wing entering the Senators zone and feathered a perfect pass to the streaking Friesen. Friesen took the pass and lifted the puck over goaltender Patrick Lalime to give the Devils a dramatic 3-2 lead. Two minutes and fourteen seconds later, the Devils won their third Eastern Conference Championship in four seasons. Seven games later, they were Stanley Cup Champions for the third time.
Grant Marshall and Jeff Friesen work together to send the Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals:
5) May 25, 2012 vs. New York Rangers: Henrique Dethrones the King
18 years after their classic battle in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils and New York Rangers met again with a berth to the Stanley Cup Finals at stake. 18 years after giving up one of the most heartbreaking goals of his storied career, Martin Brodeur had a chance to rewrite history.
The Devils and Rangers opened the series at Madison Square Garden with the Rangers defeating New Jersey 3-0. The Devils responded with a 3-2 win in Game 2 with David Clarkson netting the game-winner in the third. At the Prudential Center for Game 3 (note: Games 3-6 were on the same dates as Games 3-6 in 1994), the Rangers won again by a final of 3-0 but the Devils held serve in Game 4 by crushing New York 4-1. The Devils, just like they did in 1994, took Game 5 at the Garden. Ryan Carter scored the eventual game-winner late in the third period after receiving a pass from Stephen Gionta as they won 5-3 despite blowing a 3-0 lead, thus setting up a chance to clinch the series back in Newark.
18 years to the date of Mark Messier’s famous “Guarantee,” the Devils had an opportunity to create their own moment of glory. The parallels to that storied series, however, couldn’t go unnoticed. New Jersey got goals from Niedermayer and Lemieux in the first period in 1994 but fell victim to captain Messier’s hat trick as the Rangers won 4-2. Now in a different home arena, the Devils once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Carter opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the playoffs when he buried a loose puck in the crease and Ilya Kovalchuk finished a spectacular display of passing on the power play to extend the Devils lead. In the second period, New York cut the deficit in half and then Rangers captain Ryan Callahan channeled his inner “Messier” and knotted the game at 2. Was history repeating itself?
Brodeur, the only active player in the series to have also been a part of the 1994 series, made sure the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals would end differently. The Rangers, with their backs against the wall, came out firing in the third but Brodeur stopped all eight shots he faced to force overtime.
18 years later, the Devils had their own signature moment in the Hudson River Rivalry. One minute and three seconds into overtime, a mad scramble for the puck in the crease of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist came to an exhilarating end when rookie center Adam Henrique sent the Devils to the Finals for the fifth time in the history of their franchise.
Doc Emrick calls one of the biggest goals in Devils history, “Henrique! It’s over!”
Honorable Mention: 2001 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brodeur Darkens the Goal Light in Pittsburgh
The number one seed in the Eastern Conference and defending champion Devils advanced to their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals series in 2001. New Jersey and Pittsburgh split the first two games at the Meadowlands but the Devils outscored the Penguins 8-0 during the next two games at the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Brodeur, already with two shutouts during the 2001 postseason, made a combined 41 saves on all 41 shots he faced in Games 3 and 4 to lock down the high-flying Penguins offense, led by Jaromir Jagr (121 points), Alex Kovalev (95 points), Martin Straka (95 points), and Mario Lemieux (76 points in just 43 games), on the road. Brodeur, as well as the Devils checking unit led by John Madden and Jay Pandolfo, frustrated the Penguins forwards so much that legendary forward Mario Lemieux spent the final minute of the deciding Game 5 in the penalty box after he slashed and cross-checked Madden out of exasperation. New Jersey defeated the Penguins to advance to the Finals for the second year in a row where they would fall just short of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
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.