The 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs was the last time both conference finals went the full seven games, and both were rivalry battles to boot. The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche had gone seven games in this same round a year ago in the West. And there’s plenty of bad blood in any circumstance when the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers hook up in the East.
Philadelphia was the top seed in the entire league, with New Jersey right behind them in the two-slot. Though New Jersey had the more notable goalie in Martin Brodeur, Philadelphia was more defensive oriented overall. Both teams cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs with records of 8-2.
Brodeur was the hero of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, with 35 saves in a 4-1 New Jersey win. But the Flyers solved the goalie each of the next three nights, scoring a combined 11 goals and taking a 3-1 series lead.
Patrik Elias, New Jersey’s best offensive player turned the series around in Game 5 with a goal and an assist to keep his team alive. Then the Devil defense simply locked down in Game 6. Philadelphia got only 13 shots in a 2-1 loss that forced a seventh game.
Elias was a hero one more time in Game 7, scoring two goals and Brodeur and the defense made it stand up in a 2-1 win that sent New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since their championship year of 1995.
Dallas and Colorado were the #3 and #4 teams in the West respectively. The Stars had Mike Modano and Brett Hull back from the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and Ed Belfour was back in goal. Colorado was just four years removed from a Cup of their own and Patrick Roy was still between the pipes, with Joe Sakic leading the offense.
Roy pitched shutouts in Games 1 & 3, each by a 2-0 count, and those wins were sandwiched around a Dallas victory in Game 2 where Modano and Hull combined for all three goals in a 3-2 victory. Hull then scored twice and had an assist in a Game 4 win that tied the series.
Dallas only got 20 shots in Game 5, and it took two overtimes to settle, but the Stars scraped out a 3-2 win, with Hull again having a goal and an assist. Colorado answered with a tough 2-1 win that forced Game 7.
Once again, Dallas’ money players came up big. This time it was Modano with a goal and an assist, and Belfour outplayed Roy in a 3-2 win that sent the Stars back to the Finals.
The 2000 Stanley Cup Finals didn’t quite measure up to the conference finals, but New Jersey and Dallas still played a compelling six-game series. The Devils came out flying offensively, with Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora each scoring twice in a 7-3 rout to open the series.
The teams traded 2-1 wins over the next two games, and then New Jersey grabbed a 3-1 win to move to the brink of a championship. Game 5 went into triple overtime–ironic, given Dallas’ own controversial Cup-clinching win in triple overtime in 1999. The Stars showed they still knew how to play late into the night, as a Modano goal kept the series alive.
More overtime awaited in Dallas, as a 1-1 tie went into the second extra session. Finally, Jason Arnott scored for the Devils. The defensive nature of the series, and New Jersey’s entire playoff run made it appropriate that defenseman Scott Stevens win the Conn Smythe Award as postseason MVP. The 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs ended with the Cup going back to the Jersey Shore.
The Devils’ first championship in 1995 might have been seen as a fluke, a big upset over the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings. The 2000 title eliminated that, and three years later, New Jersey would hoist the Cup one more time and establish themselves as one of the outstanding organizations in the NHL.