June 4, 2013 by Sal Ientile of The Hockey Daily.
The Conference Finals often produce some of the best hockey in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Give clutch players a stage and they will perform at their best. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable moments in Conference Finals history dating back 20 years to 1993.
The Canadiens Set Records In The Conference Finals.
With an OT goal by Guy Carbonneau in Game 3 of the 1993 Conference Finals the Montreal Canadiens tied an NHL record for 11 straight wins in one playoffs season. They also set a record with their 7th overtime winner in a single playoffs. The Habs won this memorable game 2-1 en route to winning the series 4-1, ending the New York Islanders unlikely run.
View all 10 OT winners scored by the 93’ Canadiens.
Gretzky’s Greatest Game.
On the heels of a legendary blown call by Kerry Fraser in a Game 6 Leafs fans will never forget, the Los Angeles Kings strolled into Maple Leaf Gardens for Game 7 on a high. The highest of them all was the game’s greatest player Wayne Gretzky. The Great One scored a hat trick on the road leading LA to a 5-4 victory, and the franchises’ first ever birth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Gretzky has often called his 3 goal performance the best of his career. Considering Wayne’s career accomplishments, that statement is a very significant one from a very significant player.
Mark Messier Refuses To Lose.
Perhaps the most memorable playoff moment of the 1990’s occurred in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. After falling behind 3-2 in games, Rangers Captain Mark Messier declared victory would belong to him in Game 6. The Moose delivered with a hat trick that forced Game 7, and ultimately propelled the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
Watch video of Mark Messier’s famous hat trick goal to force a final game.
Red Wings Win Heartbreaker In OT To Eliminate The Blackhawks.
In 1995, the Red Wings had proven a lot of critics wrong by making the Conference Finals. The previous two playoff seasons the Wings were upset in the 1st round and with them lingered a stigma that they could not win important games in the playoffs.
Up against a Blackhawks core that had played in the Stanley Cup Finals only four years before, the Wings entered Game 6 at home with a 3-2 series lead. Rather than blow it, they proved worthy of their own Cup Finals birth with a 3-2 OT win. The win marked the beginning of an era for Red Wings hockey. They had arrived.
Although they did not claim victory in the 95′ Finals, they proved they could get there – and get there they did 5 more times in the following 14 seasons. The end result being 4 Stanley Cups in a very competitive era.
It’s Raining Rats.
The Florida Panthers franchise did the unthinkable when they made the Conference Finals in only their 2nd season of existence. The newly formed expansion team came out of nowhere in 96′, riding the momentum of a veteran team and fan-base of rat throwing fanatics.
The Panthers prolonged their improbable playoffs with a gutsy 4-3 Game 6 victory at home. On they weaselled to Game 7 in Pittsburgh where surely they could not go any further. The Panthers, however, outdid the Pens on home ice and clinched themselves a spot in the Finals.