As the NHL prepares for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL.com staff selected the best 20 Stanley Cup Final games since 2000. Our 15-writer panel nominated 44 games for consideration before each member voted for his or her favorite 20 from that list. Each favorite game was awarded 20 points, with the selections that followed receiving one fewer point each and so on, down to one point for each 20th-favorite game. Today, we look at Game 7 of the 2003 Final between the New Jersey Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, which was on six ballots and received 52 points.
2003 Game 7: New Jersey Devils 3, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 0
The Devils were in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in four seasons and were the heavy favorites against the Ducks, who, as the No. 7 seed, defeated the No. 2 Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and the No. 1 Dallas Stars in the semifinals.
Things did not play out that way and the taut series, thanks in part to the brilliant goaltending of Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere, went seven games.
After no goals were scored in the first period of Game 7, Devils rookie forward Mike Rupp, who had one assist in the postseason to that point, scored at 2:22 of the second to give New Jersey a lead it would not relinquish. Jeff Friesen scored at 12:18 of the second period and again at 16:16 of the third for the 3-0 final. Rupp assisted on each of those goals. The Ducks were unable to get anything going offensively and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made 24 saves for his third shutout of the Final and record-seventh of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner (11 goals, seven assists) and defenseman Scott Niedermayer (two goals, 16 assists) tied for the lead in playoff scoring with 18 points. Langenbrunner led in goals, one more than Friesen.
They said it: “That’s probably the hard part. I wish he was right there along beside me celebrating. He played awesome.” — Scott Niedermayer on defeating his brother, Rob, a forward for the Mighty Ducks, in the Final
Historical significance: It was the third Cup title for the Devils in nine seasons, with five players winning all three (Brodeur, Niedermayer, Sergei Brylin, Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens). … Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (15-6, 1.62 goals-against average, .945 save percentage, five shutouts), the fifth and most recent time a player on the losing team won the award. … Devils forward Joe Nieuwendyk became the ninth player to win the Stanley Cup with three teams (Calgary Flames, 1989; Dallas Stars, 1999). … … It was the third time in NHL history that the home team won every game in the Final (1955, 1965). … The Devils set a record for the most home wins in one postseason (12).
Iconic moment: When Patrik Elias handed the Cup to Daneyko, the crowd erupted. The 39-year-old defenseman, who didn’t play in Games 1-6, played 11:23 in Game 7 and was on the ice for the final seconds. A member of the Devils’ previous two championships, Daneyko would retire a month later after 1,283 games and 20 NHL seasons, all with New Jersey.
Telling stat: Rupp, who scored the game-winning goal and became the fourth player in NHL history with three points in a Cup Final Game 7, had four points (one goal, three assists) in 63 playoff games after that. He is the only player in NHL history to have his first playoff goal be the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
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