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The 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began in April, 1996. 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. These playoffs are noted as being the first playoffs in which all Canadian teams are eliminated after the first round.
The playoffs ended in June with the Colorado Avalanche sweeping the Florida Panthers in both team's first ever Finals appearance. It was Colorado's first ever Stanley Cup championship. Joe Sakic was named playoff MVP, and awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
As of 2009, the 1996 playoffs would be the most recent time every Original Six team made the playoffs in the same year.
|Conference Quarterfinals||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||Stanley Cup Final|
† Last playoff game at USAir Arena.
* First playoff Game at Molson Center.
* Last NHL playoff game in Winnipeg
* Last Flyers game at the Spectrum
Eastern Conference FinalsEdit
The 1996 Eastern Conference Finals was the National Hockey League best-of-seven playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers. The Florida Panthers won the series in seven games, and represented the NHL Eastern Conference in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
Series background Edit
The Penguins were coming off a dominating 5-game series win over the New York Rangers, while the Panthers had just completed an unlikely upset of the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins were looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992, while the Panthers were playing in their first-ever Conference Finals.
Series game recaps Edit
Despite being outshot 33–25 in game one at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, the Panthers came out on top with an impressive 5–1 win. Florida goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck made 32 saves and Florida forward Tom Fitzgerald scored twice.
The Penguins, wanting to avoid going down 2–0 against the Panthers, came out with a better game two and won 3–2.
In game three at the Miami Arena, the Panthers fired an incredible 61 shots on Penguins goaltender Tom Barrasso and it paid off as the Panthers won 5–2 to take a two-games-to-one series lead. Florida forward Stu Barnes scored twice.
Then, trailing 1–0 in game four, Pittsburgh tied the score on Brad Lauer's goal with 11:03 remaining in regulation. Bryan Smolinski scored the go-ahead goal with 3:31 to go to give the Penguins a 2–1 lead. This turned out to be the game-winner, as Pittsburgh hung on to win the game 2–1 and tie the series at two games apiece.
Leading the series three games to two, Pittsburgh looked to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in game six on Thursday, May 30 at the Miami Arena. The Penguins led 2–1 in the second period, but the Panthers scored three of the next four goals and edged the Penguins 4–3 to tie the series at 3–3.
The pivotal game seven on Saturday, June 1 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Florida got a 1–0 lead on Mike Hough's goal at 13:13 of the first period. After a scoreless second period, Pittsburgh tied the game on Petr Nedved's power-play goal at 1:23 of the third period. However, the Panthers regained the lead on Tom Fitzgerald's bizarre 58-foot slapshot at 6:18 and got an insurance goal from Johan Garpenlöv at 17:23. Florida hung on to win the game 3–1 and the series four games to three. John Vanbiesbrouck made 39 saves in the victory.
Series results Edit
Western Conference FinalsEdit
The 1996 Western Conference Finals was the National Hockey League best-of-seven playoff series between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche. The Colorado Avalanche won the series in six games, and represented the NHL Western Conference in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
Series background Edit
The Red Wings had just finished a seven-game series win against the St. Louis Blues, while the Avalanche were coming off a six-game series win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit had the league's best regular-season record and were hoping to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. As a franchise, the Avalanche had not been in a Conference Finals since 1985, when they were the Quebec Nordiques and a member of the Prince of Wales Conference (now the NHL Eastern Conference), and were looking to advance to the Cup Finals for the first time ever.
Series game recaps Edit
The Avalanche won game two as well, 3–0. Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy stopped all 35 shots he faced.
Down two games to none, the Red Wings played solidly in game three at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. Detroit defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov combined to score three goals (including a shorthanded goal by Konstantinov) and Detroit won 6–4.
In Game 4, the Red Wings outshot the Avalanche 31–17. However, Colorado won the game 4–2, thanks in part to 29 saves made by goaltender Patrick Roy. The Avalanche now had a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
Detroit played with desperation and determination in Game 5 at the Joe Louis Arena on Monday, May 27. Inspired by Vladimir Konstantinov's big body check on Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux, the Red Wings went on to win 5–2. The series now stood at three games to two in favor of Colorado.
Game 6 at McNichols Sports Arena on Wednesday, May 29, became famous in the history of the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry. At one moment during that game, Detroit forward Kris Draper was along the boards at center ice, off balance, when Colorado forward Claude Lemieux checked Draper into the boards. The hit sent Draper to the hospital with a broken jaw and a shattered cheek and orbital bone, which required surgery and stitches. Draper did not return to play until the middle of the 1996–97 season. While Lemieux was assessed a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct match penalty for the hit, the Avalanche went on to win the game 4–1, and the series four games to two. The controversial hit on Draper by Lemieux started the Detroit-Colorado rivalry that lasted for years.
Series results Edit
Stanley Cup FinalsEdit