New Jersey Devils History: The 10 Greatest Games

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New Jersey Devils History: The 10 Greatest Games
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI)

The other day I was watching the NHL Network (yeah, I'm the one) and I actually saw a commercial for a New York Islanders' 10 Greatest Games DVD. As interesting as that is, since they didn't have to review any footage after 1987, I got to wondering if they would ever put out a New Jersey Devils edition of that DVD.

The Devils always seem to be stigmatized as the boring team that invented the trap. But if you look through their history, there have been many historical and exciting games. Here are the ten games I would put on that disc.

 

10. Devils at Penguins, 10/28/00

While seen as a defense-based team, the Devils can be prone to fits of offensive outburst. The roster is usually filled with players that appear to be satisfied playing for the Selke Trophy. On this night, two players showed they can play offense too.

The Devils ripped Pittsburgh for nine goals; John Madden and Randy McKay each exploded for four goals, while Turner Stevenson joined in with one. Sasha Goc finished with a plus-five rating, as some of the lesser offensively known talent on the team had fun for one night.

And while you might think the Devils ingnored their own blue line during a night of lamp lighting, they also managed to shut out the Pens, winning 9-0.

 

9. Devils at Canadiens, 4/18/06

On January 6th, 2006, the Devils were 19 points behind the first place Philadephia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. One of their star offensive players, Patrik Elias, missed most of the season after contracting hepatitis in Europe. The season did not appear to hold much promise.

Elias eventually did return, and by no coincidence, the Devils began a historic charge up the standings. They only needed to win their final regular season game in Montreal to cap their furious comeback and win the Atlantic.

Despite coming in on a tremendous roll, the Devils fell flat against the Habs, going down 3-0 at one point and still trailing 3-1 with ten minutes remaining in the third period. At that point the Devils staged yet another furious comeback.

Brian Gionta scored his second of two goals in the game, 47th and 48th, making him the all-time single season goal scorer in team history. He followed that by setting up Elias for the tying goal.

Finally, Jamie Langenbrunner scored to take the lead, which would hold up as the winner. The four goals came in a span of less than six minutes.

The win gave the Devils a division championship that seemed nearly impossible three months beforehand. Making up those 19 points made it the largest comeback to win a division in over 30 years.


8. Maple Leafs at Devils, 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, East Semifinals Game 6, 5/8/00

Okay. The Devils do play a defense first style of hockey, which technically can be boring and mind-numbing if you cannot enjoy hockey without tons of scoring. Or, if you were a Toronto Maple Leafs fan when this game went down.

Years from now, if someone ever wonders if the Devils were the preeminent defensive team of this generation, you can point them to this game. The Devils held the talented Leafs to six shots total, including just one in the third period. The six shots remain the lowest total allowed in the 1967-present expansion era.

It's always said, that in a seven game series, the hardest one to win is the last one. Well that may be true nine times out of ten, but the Devils dispatched the Leafs 3-0 in dominant fashion, moving on to the second round and continuing a push to the team's second Stanley Cup championship.

The win marked a total defensive effort from one end of the bench to the other that stands as a symbol of the pride the team takes in playing defense.

 

7. Devils at Flyers, 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, East Finals Game 7, 5/25/00

The Devils completed a comeback from being down three games to one in the East Finals against Philadelphia, but what most will remember is the thundering hit Scott Stevens laid on Eric Lindros.

New Jersey won the first game in Philadelphia, but would go on to lose the next three games, finding themselves one loss from elimination. Inspired by a garbage-can-kicking tirade from then coach Larry Robinson, the Devils managed to win two games in a row and force a seventh game.

In the sixth game, Flyers center Eric Lindros made a surprise return: After a long absence due to multiple concussions, Lindros seemed fine and scored a late goal.

For the deciding seventh game, Lindros appeared healthy and ready. Midway through into the first period he stole the puck at center ice and barreled into the Devils zone. But Lindros had his head down and was crushed by Stevens right as he crossed the blue line.

The Flyers star went down hard and had to be helped off the ice. The hit was brutal and Lindros was never the same again. It was his last game both as a Flyer and as a premiere power forward in the NHL.

The rest of the game was quite tight. The score was tied late until Patrik Elias put a puck past Flyers’ goalie Brian Boucher with just over two minutes left in the third period. The Devils hung on for the remainder and clinched their second trip to the Finals.

 

6. Devils at Senators , 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, East Finals Game 7, 5/23/03

The Senators were the best team in the 2002-03 regular season. Their 113 points were the highest in the NHL and they won the President's Trophy. They had the offensive talent, scoring the second most goals, and balanced that with great defense and a good goalie, giving up the fifth least goals in the league.

They seemed to be a lock to make the Finals.

Surprisingly, the Devils were able to take a 3-1 series lead before blowing games five and six, leaving themforced to win game seven in Ottawa or go home.

The Devils would fall behind early in the first, but took the lead in the second behind two goals from future captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Ottawa battled back and scored the tying goal less than two minutes into the third, setting the two teams up or an exciting finish.

The following 16 minutes was as tense of action as you can see in a seventh game. Brodeur was forced to make several fantastic saves to preserve the tie and Scott Gomez barely missed on several chances to take the lead.

With 2:14 remaining, Jeff Friesen was able to break through the Senators' defense. He received an outstanding thread the needle pass from Grant Marshall and moved the puck around Sens' goaltender Patrick LaLime for the winning tally.

The Devils were able to oust the President's Trophy winner and one of the best offensive teams in recet memory.

 

5. Devils at Blackhawks, 4/3/88

The Devils had long been a laughing stock of the league by the time they rolled into Chicago Stadium for the final game of the 1987-88 regular season, having finished last or second to last in the Atlantic Division every year since leaving Colorado.

The Devils were also on the short end of an unusual tirade from Wayne Gretzky, who blasted the team, calling them a "Mickey Mouse organization."

But the Devils were able to add a nucleus of young talent during their years of futility, and when they played the Blackhawks in the season finale, they needed just one win to put the franchise in the playoffs for the first time under their new name.

Midway through the third period, the Devils found themselves down by one. The Rangers had already won their last game, so the Devils needed the win to make the playoffs.

With time winding down, winger John Maclean was able to beat Hawks' goalie Darren Pang to tie the game and force overtime. In the extra frame, MacLean was able to beat Pang again for the winning goal, dramatically sending the Devils to the playoffs.

While impressive in its own right, this win was just the beginning of an exciting playoff run for the Devils. They were able to make it through two rounds and met the Boston Bruins in the Wales Conference Finals, which set the stage for the infamous Don Koharski-Jim Shoenfield donut incident.

The Devils would lose to Boston in seven, one game shy of making the Stanley Cup Finals.

 


4. Blackhawks at Devils, 3/17/09

This is, of course, the game Martin Brodeur became the all-time wins leader for goaltenders. After missing 50 games with an elbow injury, Brodeur came back on a torrid pace which culminated in his 552nd victory, a 3-2 win over Chicago.

With a packed house in Newark, he didn't disappoint, breaking the record with his first opportunity. The win put him past his childhood hero and professional rival Patrick Roy.

Marty got all the headlines, but not to be forgotten was Patrik Elias, who became the Devils all-time leading scorer in the second period. Elias has always had the talent on the offensive side, but his talent on the defensive side of the puck never seems to get full credit.

Playing on the penalty kill, Elias was able to clear the puck out of his zone, chase it down and feed a fantastic assist on a shorthanded goal by Brian Gionta.

While the breaking of the two records were significant in their own right, this game is important because it, along with the retirement of the jerseys of Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, has helped the Devils begin to forge their own team identity in the NHL.

They are always seen in the shadow of the nearby New York Rangers and are sometimes eclipsed by the Philadelphia Flyers in their own state.

A rare sellout crowd was on hand to see two of the best players in franchise history achieve great personal accomplishments, and a memorable addition to the relatively short history of Devils in New Jersey.

 

3. Devils at Stars, 2000 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6, 6/10/00

This game marked the end of a classic series that will be remembered for the goaltending performances by Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour. After a hiccup from Belfour in the first game, the two goaltenders put on a goaltending clinic all the way to the end of the series.

Minutes before Arnott's Cup clincher, Brodeur was still making fantastic saves, including one on Joe Nieuwendyk that won't soon be forgotten. The quality of the scoring opportunities and resulting saves has to be seen to be appreciated.

The Devils won the game and the Cup in the second overtime, after Jason Arnott one-timed a pass from Patrik Elias past Belfour. Arnott became the ninth player to score an overtime goal that won the Stanley Cup.

 

2. Ducks at Devils, 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7, 6/9/03

J.S. Giguere got the Conn Smythe, but the Devils got the Big One. In this Game 7, the Devils and Marty Brodeur were able to shut out Anaheim and win their third Cup.

Brodeur outdueled the Ducks' goaltender, but Giguere came away with the playoff MVP. It still may sit a little sour with some Devils fans, but Brodeur was probably satisfied with how it all ended.

New Jersey was able to win Game 7 after blowing a chance to win it all the game prior in Anaheim—avoiding a nightmarish repeat of the final two games of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals against Colorado. Coming back to win Game 7 two years later didn't excise all of those demons, but it took a little of the sting away.

 

1. Red Wings at Devils, 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4, 6/24/95

The Devils defeated the Wings to win their first Stanley Cup championship. After a heartbreaking loss in the previous year to the Rangers, the Devils were able to take the next step.

Taking on Detroit in the Finals, the Devils surprised everyone not only by winning, but by sweeping the heavily favored Red Wings in four games. It was the first Cup for Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and Sergei Brylin—all core players for the Devils during their glory years.

It was also the game that allowed the Devils to fully shed their "Mickey Mouse" image and become a first class organization that can compete for the Stanley Cup every year. That image is still in place today, and it began with this game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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