1994-95 was a most unusual season. A lock-out reduced the season to an abbreviated 48-game season. Although the New Jersey Devils began very slowly, the second half of their season was strong and they finished second in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 22 wins, 18 losses and eight ties.
|Lou Lamoriello was hired as President of the
New Jersey Devils in April 1987 and shortly afterwards, appointed himself General Manager.
(Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Devils' strong finish carried over into the post-season. New Jersey pushed away the Boston Bruins in five games, eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup final by dumping the Philadelphia Flyers four games to two. Next stop: Detroit to face the Red Wings.
For New Jersey, it was their first appearance in a Stanley Cup final. Detroit hadn't been that close to a Stanley Cup since their loss to Montreal in 1966.
The underdog Devils arrived at Joe Louis Arena on June 17, 1995, facing the Red Wings, who had won eight straight games at home that spring, outscoring their opponents 30 goals to 11. But New Jersey played a strong defensive game, holding the Red Wings to just 17 shots, and doubled Detroit 2-1, collecting goals by Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux.
Three nights later, the teams took a 2-2 tie late into the third period before Jim Dowd scored to put New Jersey ahead. Stephane Richer scored an empty net goal to give New Jersey a 4-2 victory.
Game Three saw the series move to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. New Jersey shocked the Wings, going up 5-0 midway through the third, although Detroit did score two goals to make the score modestly respectable.
|Lamoriello has led the Devils to three
Stanley Cup championships.
(Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Taking a three game to none lead into Game Four, the Devils salivated like Pavlov's dog. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Devils scored at the 68-second mark. But Detroit was undeterred and rebounded just 55 seconds later to tie the game. Later that period, the Wings scored again to silence the Meadowlands' crowd, but the Devils tied the game before the conclusion of the first period.
The Devils scored once in the second and twice more in the third to take a commanding lead that Detroit was not going to usurp. And they didn't. The New Jersey Devils won the contest 5-2 and won the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship, sweeping the Detroit Red Wings.
Although netminder Martin Brodeur surrendered but seven goals against the Red Wings, it was New Jersey forward Claude Lemieux who was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff's most valuable performer. He led all playoff scorers with 13 goals.
"There is nothing better than winning the Stanley Cup when you're involved with hockey," beamed president and general manager Lou Lamoriello. The team accomplished their victory with a solid team effort. "There is a reason for a logo in front and the name in back," he added.
It was an impressive season for the Devils. Not only did they win their first franchise championship, but they did so holding the lowest seed ever (ninth) to win the Stanley Cup. Their regular season winning percentage was also the lowest since the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup in 1967.
The Devils would go on to win two additional championships that decade, but for Lou Lamoriello, it was the pinnacle of his professional career.
Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.