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Greatest Games: New Jersey Devils – New Jersey In The Spring

The Devils struggled for years before making the NHL playoffs. It finally happened in thrilling fashion.

No. 1 – April 3, 1988 – New Jersey 4, Chicago 3 (OT)

The young and precocious Devils had already won the hearts of fans by going unbeaten in seven games down the stretch. Now, on the final day of the 1987-88 season, a spot in the playoffs was within their grasp for the first time since the franchise arrived in New Jersey. It would take the greatest game in Devils history.

Needing a win to claim the final playoff berth from the New York Rangers, who were watching from the team lounge at Madison Square Garden, the Devils were tied 2-2 with the Blackhawks in the third period. When Troy Murray blocked a Craig Wolanin shot from the point and beat rookie goalie Sean Burke on a breakaway at 9:27, the Devils wondered whether their dreams would die in storied Chicago Stadium.

In the elevated press box at one end of the ice, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello continually left his seat and paced nervously. He poured cup after cup of coffee. “I would count Lou as a rookie with all of us in that year of ’87-88,” said Brendan Shanahan. “In some ways making the playoffs was our coming-out party. I was 18, Sean was 19 and our captain (Kirk Muller) was 22. Johnny Mac was 23.”

John MacLean scored on his own rebound against Hawks goalie Darren Pang at 11:57 and a save by Burke on Keith Brown during a 2-on-1 break with 1:18 remaining sent the game into overtime. Ken Daneyko and Pat Verbeek had scored the Devils’ first two goals, but it was MacLean who came through again. Pang made the initial pad stop, but MacLean pounced on the rebound to end the game after 2:21 of OT.

It was the goal and the game that legitimized the Devils.

No. 2 – June 10, 2000 – New Jersey 2, Dallas 1 (2OT)
Jason Arnott took a blind pass from Patrik Elias and scored at 8:20 of the second overtime to deliver the Devils’ second Stanley Cup.

No. 3 – June 20, 1995 – New Jersey 4, Detroit 2
An end-to-end rush by Scott Niedermayer that culminated in a goal highlighted a Game 2 win en route to a sweep of the Wings in the ’95 Cup final.

GREATEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE OF ALL-TIME

Patrik Sundstrom
April 22, 1988 – New Jersey 10, Washington 4
Mark Johnson could only shake his head and smile as he watched reporters crowd around his linemate. “I score four goals in a playoff game and no one is going to remember,” Johnson said.

He had a point. Sundstrom had a game for the ages, breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of seven points in a playoff game with three goals and five assists in a Game 3 rout of the Capitals in the Patrick Division final. Gretzky scored seven points in a playoff game three times. In 1989, Mario Lemieux had eight points against the Flyers and continues to share the record with Sundstrom.

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