Devils to Honor ’95 Cup Champs in March

The Devils are set to honor their 1995 Stanley Cup Championship team with festivities surrounding the March 8, 2015 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The team will bring back former players and coaches associated with the team’s first Stanley Cup championship.

The Devils went into the lockout shortened 1995 season with huge expectations. They had taken the previous year’s Stanley Cup champions, the New York Rangers to the limit in the 1994 playoffs, losing in double overtime of game seven in a classic series. However, the Devils would qualify for the 1995 playoffs as the number five seed and take on the number four seed, the Boston Bruins. The Eastern Conference would also see the number one seed Quebec Nordiques take on the eighth seeded Rangers in the Nordiques’ final playoff series in Quebec City (they would move to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche that off season); the second seeded Philadelphia Flyers versus the seventh seeded Buffalo Sabres and the third seed, the Pittsburgh Penguins against the sixth seeded Washington Capitals.

Martin Brodeur and the Devils kicked off the playoffs right, shutting out the Bruins 5-0 in game one and 3-0 in game two at the Boston Garden. On the return to the Meadowlands, the Bruins pulled out a 3-2 win. Randy McKay would score game four’s only goal in overtime as the Devils would take a three games to one series lead heading back to Boston. That goal would yield one of the most famous celebrations in Stanley Cup playoff history: McKay climbing the glass of the Brendan Byrne Arena rink while his teammates swarmed around him. Game five on May 14, 1995 would be the final hockey game played in the Boston Garden, as the Devils wrapped up the series with a 3-2 win.

Meanwhile, the Devils second round opponents, the Penguins were busy with Washington, eventually prevailing in seven games. The Caps had actually had three games to one lead in this series with Pittsburgh on the ropes in game five. The Pens won that game at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in overtime, 6-5 and never looked back, winning the final two games of the series in a thrilling comeback.

The well-rested Devils got off to a slow start, dropping game one to the Penguins at Civic Arena, 3-2. From there, they took over completely: winning game two 4-2, game three (back at the Meadowlands Arena) 5-1, game four 2-1 in overtime and game five 4-1. It was on to the conference finals for the third time in franchise history.

The Devils’ opponents in their second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference finals would the Flyers who had dispatched the Sabres four games to one and swept the Rangers in the second round. Although this was the first time these two teams had faced each other as geographical rivals, it was actually the second time the franchises had faced off in the playoffs. The Flyers had defeated the Colorado Rockies in the 1978 preliminary round, sweeping the best of three series in two games.

The series opened up on June 3, 1995 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia with the Devils pulling out a 4-1 win. They then took game two in Philly 5-2 and it was back to the Meadowlands with an eye towards a sweep. That was not to be, however, as the Flyers spoiled the party, winning 3-2 in overtime in game three when Eric Lindros scored at 4:19 of the extra period. Philly then took game four 4-2 to tie up the series as they headed back down the Turnpike to The Spectrum. Game five would see the Devils win 3-2 on the famous goal by Claude Lemieux, on the rush, beating Ron Hextall just under his blocker with less than a minute left in the game. Game seven back in New Jersey on June 13 saw the Devils wrap things up with a 4-2 win, sending the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history to face the Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings.

The top-seeded Wings had defeated the Dallas Stars four games to one, had swept the San Jose Sharks and had beaten the Chicago Blackhawks four games to one to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1966.

The championship series opened on Saturday, June 17, 1995 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit with the Devils grabbing a quick 1-0 series lead, winning the game 2-1. Stephane Richer scored the first Stanley Cup Final goal in franchise history when he scored at 9:41 of the second. Dino Ciccarelli tied things up for Detroit at 13:08. Lemieux got the game winner at 3:17 of the third.

Game two, played on Tuesday, June 20, saw the Devils take a 2-0 series lead with a 4-2 win. This game was notable in Devils lore for two reasons: Scott Stevens’ bone-crushing bodycheck on Vyacheslav Kozlov (the “You’re next!” hit) and Scott Niedermayer’s end-to-end rush, scoring on his own rebound off the end-boards on goaltender Mike Vernon. The game winner would actually come off the stick of Brick, New Jersey native Jim Dowd. The Devils were heading home for the second straight series with a commanding two games to none lead. This win was also the team’s record-breaking tenth playoff win on the road in 1995.

Game three took place on Thursday, June 22 in East Rutherford. The Devils would win this game 5-2 The Devils broke out to a commanding 5-0 lead, getting goals from Bruce Driver, Lemieux, Neal Broten, McKay and Bobby Holik. The Red Wings would add power play goals by superstars Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman, but the Devils were now on the verge of their first Stanley Cup with a three games to none lead.

Game four was played on Saturday, June 24 as Neal Broten got the scoring started, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead just over one minute into the game. Fedorov tied things up about a minute later and Paul Coffey game the Wings the lead with a shorthanded goal at 13:01. From there, however, it was all Devils. Shawn Chambers tied things up at two late in the first, then Broten would score what would go on to be the Cup-clinching goal early in the second period, giving the Devils the 3-2 lead. The last two goals of the game came from Sergei Brylin and Chambers (who, like Broten, had two in the game). Claude Lemieux was named playoff MVP as he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Devils had won their first Stanley Cup when Mike Emrick made the call on Fox: “The championship to New Jersey, the Devils win the Stanley Cup!”

Now, twenty years later, the Devils are scheduled to pay tribute to this great team. The 1995 team will be honored during the March 8 game versus Philly (one of four teams the Devils beat en route to their first championship), puckdrop for that game is 5PM. It should be a very festive and historic evening as the Devils look to their past and honor the team that helped kick off the most successful period in the team’s history.

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