The 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began after the conclusion of the 1993–94 NHL season. The sixteen teams that qualified, eight from each conference, played best-of-7 series for conference quarterfinals, semifinals and championships, and then the conference champions played a best-of-7 series for the Stanley Cup.
For the first time in history, all four former WHA teams (Edmonton, Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg) failed to make the playoffs in the same year. This would not happen again until 2007 after the three latter teams had relocated.
The Rangers had just dispatched the Washington Capitals in five games, while the Devils had just defeated the Boston Bruins in six games (after losing the first two games of the series at home). New York was trying to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since [[1979 Stanley Cup Finals|1979, while the Devils were trying to advance to their first-ever Cup Finals. The Rangers and Devils finished 1–2 respectively in the NHL during the regular season. Despite the two teams strong regular season records, the Rangers entered the series heavily favored as they had swept the regular season six game series with the Devils. This series was the second time that the Rangers and Devils had met in the post season. The series also cemented the legitimacy of the Hudson River Rivalry. The series is also recognized as one of the greatest series in NHL history.
With a minute remaining in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, New York was leading 3–2. However, Devils forward Claude Lemieux tied the game on a scramble in front of New York goaltender Mike Richter. This was a huge goal for the Devils, as they went on to win the game on Stephane Richer's breakaway goal at 15:23 of the second overtime.
The series then turned to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, for games three and four. Like Game 1, Game 3 went into double overtime but this time it was New York who won, 3–2, on Stephane Matteau's goal at 6:13 of the second overtime period.
The Devils dominated Game 5 at MSG, winning 4–1. They now led the series three games to two; they were just one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their history, and they had a chance to do it on home ice, on Wednesday, May 25 back at the Meadowlands.
Despite the fact that his team trailed in the series 3–2, Rangers captain Mark Messier garanteed that New York would win Game 6. At first, it seemed his prediction was not going to come to fruition, as New Jersey led game six by a score of 2–1 after two periods. But in a fitting twist of fate, it was Messier himself who scored a third-period hat trick to give the Rangers an incredible 4–2 win.
Game 7 on Friday, May 27 at MSG was another goaltending battle between New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur and New York netminder Mike Richter. Brian Leetch gave the Rangers a 1–0 lead in the second period. Richter shut out the Devils for over 59 minutes before Devils forward Valeri Zelepukin scored the tying goal with just 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation. The two teams played into double overtime for the third time in the series, and it was Stephane Matteau who scored on a wrap-around at 4:24 of the second overtime period, to give the Rangers a 2–1 win and a 4–3 series win. Brodeur raced around to the left side of the net and went down in time, but the wrap-around by Matteau snuck by his pads. It was considered a weak goal by Brodeur's standards, but nonetheless gave the Rangers the win.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks met in the 1994 Western Conference final. Toronto was coming off a tough seven-game series win against the San Jose Sharks while Vancouver was fresh off a brief five-game series win against the Dallas Stars. The Maple Leafs were hoping to make it to Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since [[1967 Stanley Cup Finals|1967, while the Canucks had not made it to the Cup Finals since their Cinderella run in [[1982 Stanley Cup Finals|1983.
Toronto won game one at Maple Leaf Gardens on Peter Zezel's goal at 16:55 of the first overtime period. After that, however, the Maple Leafs could not seem to slow down the bigger, more-powerful Canucks. Vancouver edged Toronto 4–3 in game two, and won shutouts at the Pacific Coliseum in games three and four, by scores of 2–0 and 4–0 respectively. Down three games to one and facing elimination, the Maple Leafs played much better in game five on Tuesday, May 24 in Vancouver. They pushed Vancouver to double overtime but it was Vancouver forward Greg Adams who beat Leafs goaltender Felix Potvin just 14 seconds into the second overtime period to give the Canucks a 4–3 win and a 4–1 series win.
The Rangers were making their tenth appearance in the Final, first since 1979. For Vancouver, it was their second, first since 1982. In a back-and-forth series that went the maximum, the Rangers won the Cup, their fourth title, and first since 1940.