(1) New Jersey Devils vs. (8) Carolina Hurricanes
Right from the outset, there were few observers who believed the 8th seeded Hurricanes had a chance against the Devils. This was only Carolina's second post-season appearance since relocating from Hartford (their first coming in 1999 when they lost in six games to the Boston Bruins), while the Devils were in the midst of their own golden age. After the first three games- all wins by the Devils, including two shutouts- confirmed those beliefs, and even though Rod Brind'Amour scored in overtime to claim Game Four for the Hurricanes, a Devils victory seemed to be nothing but a formality.
However, Hurricanes goaltender Arturs Irbe stole Game Five from the Devils, making 37 saves to help the Hurricanes win 3-2 and unexpectedly force Game Six. Sensing that a monumental upset could be brewing, Game Six saw the series' loudest crowd, as Carolinians rallied around their team.
Unfortunately, despite the raucous crowd and the added notoriety, the Hurricanes couldn't keep up their magic. They never led for the entire game, and while David Tanabe scored midway through the second to pull the 'Canes to within one (followed by a two-man power play for 54 seconds), the Devils, behind veteran Randy McKay would explode for a 5-1 victory. At the end of the game, the Hurricanes were given a rousing standing ovation by the crowd, which was praised by players on both sides. Game Six is largely hailed as "the true moment hockey arrived in Carolina."
(2) Ottawa Senators vs. (7) Toronto Maple Leafs
The matchup between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs was one that left many hockey enthusiasts stunned. The second-seed Senators took on their seventh seeded counterpart, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Senators expected to roll over the Maple Leafs, especially since the Senators swept the Maple Leafs during the regular season, but just the reverse happened. Game one was one of two overtime games in the series, and the first game ended with a shot from the blue line by Mats Sundin. Game two was distinguished by the play of the Maple Leafs, leaving the Senators in the dust three goals to zero. The second overtime game was game three where the score was tied at two goals apiece until Cory Cross scored early in the first overtime session. The fourth game was equally punishing by the Maple Leafs as they swept the number two seed.
(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins and Capitals had formed one of the biggest rivalries in the playoffs as of late. The Capitals playoff history was marked by disappointment and humiliation, including a bitter five-game loss to these same Penguins the year previous.
After game one, a game featuring high-standard goal tending that the Capitals won, the Penguins came roaring back in games two and three, game three being highlighted by rookie Johan Hedberg's shutout performance. Game four ended in overtime in favor of Washington, despite goals by Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux, the two superstars of Pittsburgh. In game five, Pittsburgh came out fast with Lemieux having a goal and an assist on top of Andrew Ference's goal to win by one goal, two goals to one. The elimination game, game six, went all the way to overtime where Martin Straka scored after stealing the puck from Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar to win the series for the Penguins, four games to two.
The result was the same for the Caps once again. One more playoff collapse. Both teams would miss the playoffs the following season, and both would fire their coaches.
(4) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (5) Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers entered this year's playoffs still trying to forget the Eastern Conference finals the previous year. In 2000 they had a 3–1 series lead against the eventual Cup champs Devils, but lost the next three. Coach Craig Ramsay was fired in the middle of the season, GM Bob Clarke exclaimed his decision was based on the fact that his Flyers were not "tough enough". He hired ex- Flyer tough guy and former teammate Bill Barber. The Sabres season was not as complicated, Lindy Ruff led his Sabres to one of their best regular seasons in recent history. In the playoffs, the two teams had met three times in four years, with the most recent series ending in a Flyers win. The Sabres would look for revenge in the city of brotherly love.
After Philadelphia got stopped by Dominik Hasek and the Sabres in the first two games, one of which was ended by a Jay McKee overtime goal, the Flyers came out in game three determined to win a game before losing the first three, and they did by one goal, but they lost again to the Sabres in game four in overtime, after Curtis Brown banged the puck past goalie Roman Cechmanek. The Flyers prevailed in game five by a two-goal margin, but they were hammered by the Sabres in game six: they gave up a total of eight goals, five of which were surrendered by Cechmanek who was replaced early by Brian Boucher, but Boucher didn't make a difference as he gave up three goals, too. Dominik Hasek notched another shutout performance in game six, and the Sabres moved on to the conference semifinals.
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (8) Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks were entering the playoffs for the first time since 1996 after several miserable seasons. The Avalanche were the heavily favoured team after winning the President's Trophy as the best team in the regular season.
Each of the first three games were decided by one goal, the first game being a high-scoring affair with Chris Drury scoring the game-winner in the last minute of regulation and Rob Blake picking up four points. Peter Forsberg scored the overtime winner in Game 3 and the Avalanche strode away with a three-games-to-none advantage. Game 4 was close until the third period, when Peter Forsberg, Eric Messier and Joe Sakic scored in 38 seconds to put the series away. Joe Sakic scored in each of the four games, and the Avalanche beat the Canucks in a 4-game sweep.
(2) Detroit Red Wings vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings
The seventh seeded Kings took a first-round series from the second seeded Detroit Red Wings as Los Angeles came back to win the series after trailing two games to none. Games 1 and 2 went to Detroit, with Game 2 coming easily by a four-goal margin, but the Kings persevered in Game 3 behind Felix Potvin's 22 saves . Game 4 was a game for the history books: in the third period, Detroit had a three-goal lead with about six minutes to go, but relinquished the lead to the Kings' Jozef Stumpel and crew, who made a miraculous comeback to tie the game up and force it to overtime. In the extra period, Eric Belanger scored to put the finishing touch on a momentous come from behind victory and raise the team's spirits up with a tied series. After winning Game 5 in Detroit, the Kings traveled back to Los Angeles to win in overtime on an Adam Deadmarsh goal that clinched the series. Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood bore the brunt of the blame for this series loss; the following summer, the Red Wings acquired veteran goaltender Dominik Hasek and waived Osgood. In addition, the Red Wings would acquire Luc Robitaille from the Kings. The moves would pay off as the Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup the next year.
With four overtime games, three of which came on the heels of one another, the Stars fought off the Oilers after Edmonton tied the series up in game two, one of the two non-overtime games. Game one ended when Jamie Langenbrunner scored the overtime goal with more than seventeen minutes remaining. Game two was a cheeky game with nine roughing penalties, and out of the nine goals scored, only two were even strength goals. The penalty killing for each team was pretty poor: Edmonton scored three powerplay goals out of ten chances, and Dallas scored twice out of six chances. Game three ended very late in the initial overtime period when unlikely hero Benoit Hogue, of the Dallas Stars, scored the game-winning goal with twelve seconds remaining. In game four, it was Mike Comrie who closed the game with his own overtime goal with less than three minutes left in a first overtime period. The final overtime game concluded as Kirk Muller redeemed the Stars after they gave up a two-goal lead, but game six didn't go as the previous game had: the Stars finished off the Edmonton Oilers as Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk and Brett Hull scored goals to win the series four games to two.
This series featured a rematch of the previous season's opening round playoff series, when the Sharks upset the President's Trophy-winning Blues in seven games. Game one of this six-game set featured no goals in the first period, but three goals in the final period, as St. Louis edged the Sharks for the opening game of the series. Pierre Turgeon opened the scoring with a goal on a scramble in front of the net with less than 3 minutes remaining in the second period. The Blues punctuated the victory with an Al Macinnis 5-on-3 slap shot power play goal nearly seven minutes into the third period, providing a lead that would prove insurmountable. It was a rough game in the final period as misconduct penalties were dished out without hesitation: 52 total penalty minutes. Game two featured only one goal, and it came courtesy of Scott Thornton in the second period. Game three featured Dallas Drake who netted two goals, Scott Young who assisted three goals, and Pierre Turgeon who netted a Power Play goal and two assists; game three ended six goals to three for St. Louis. One of Drake's goals was a short-handed effort on a 2-on-1 break. In game four, Keith Tkachuk scored a Power Play goal with one second remaining in the first period, but the player who would ultimately win game four would be Miikka Kiprusoff who encountered 41 shots and only let two into the net. San Jose won the game three goals to two. Kiprusoff would also play excellent hockey in game five when he stopped 35 shots out of 38, but San Jose lost the game in overtime to a Bryce Salvador slap shot goal over Kiprusoff's left shoulder. The third period of an elimination game is not the most opportune moment to begin a comeback, and the San Jose Sharks realize this as well as anyone as Pavol Demitra scored the game-winning goal in the second period. Roman Turek, though, in the final two minutes of the third period stopped an onslaught of shots by the Sharks, and once the game ended, Chris Pronger, captain of the Blues, tackled Turek to congratulate him on his performance. The St. Louis Blues won the series four games to two.
(1) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Toronto Maple Leafs
In game one the game-winning goal came from Nik Antropov in the second period and Steve Thomas added a powerplay goal in the same period. Curtis Joseph played tremendously well for the Leafs stopping all 32 shots by the Devils to shut them out in game one.
Game two featured eleven goals by the two teams. The Leafs opened the scoring in the first period, and they led going into the second period one goal to none. The Devils came thrashing back in the second period, scoring four consecutive goals against Joseph, one each by Gomez, Rafalski, Mogilny and Madden. Entering the third period down by three goals, the Maple Leafs' Sundin scored a short-handed goal just 29 seconds in, but the Devils' Mogilny would respond with a powerplay goal just 38 seconds after that. Still down three goals, the Maple Leafs had to score quickly to try to return the game's competitiveness, and they did just that. The Leafs' Thomas and Sundin would tie the game up with three goals between themselves, one of which came with just 23 seconds remaining in the game. The night would end, however, on a sour note for the Leafs who would give up the game-winning goal to Randy Mckay just five minutes into the overtime period on a two-on-one break. Each team then had a game to its name.
Game three's scoring would start on the Devils' side with Holik's powerplay goal, and the game's scoring would end with a Holik assist to Rafalski. Toronto scored twice in the second period, giving them the lead going into the third period, where Scott Gomez would score early in the period. At exactly seven minutes into the overtime session of play, Rafalski attempted to pass the puck to a teammate, but the puck deflected off the skate of a Toronto defenceman (Cory Cross) and past Joseph for the game-winning goal. Rafalski was “trying to make a pass to Randy McKay but the defenceman turned [and] it went off his skate.” Despite the exemplary goaltending by Joseph in game three, the Leafs' offense wasn't nearly as potent as the Devils', who had 17 more shots than the Toronto club.
Game four's hockey play was overshadowed by the physical abuse Devils defenceman Scott Niedermayer took from Leafs enforcer Tie Domi. With mere seconds remaining in the game, a game Toronto won by two goals, Domi intentionally elbowed Niedermayer in the jaw, and the Devils defenceman left the ice rink on a stretcher, but he would return to his team's locker room in a show of determination. Niedermayer would ultimately miss about two weeks of hockey because of post-concussion symptoms. Domi received a match penalty for what Devils forward John Madden called “disgusting” and “irresponsible”. The NHL suspended Domi for the rest of the playoffs and a few games the following season. The scoring in game four occurred in only the first two periods: Toronto's Corson in the first and Berezin and Mats Sundin in the second; the Devils' Elias scored a powerplay goal in the second period, as well. 
Game five in New Jersey started with a powerplay goal from McCabe whom Mats Sundin and Tomas Kaberle, but that would be the only powerplay goal from Toronto in the game. Leafs' defenceman Cory Cross initiated scoring early in the second period, but the period would end with the two teams knotted at two goals each, as Devils' right winger Petr Sykora and center Jason Arnott scored one goal each. The controversy starts in the third period: with about 30 seconds remaining until overtime, Tomas Kaberle scored a goal on Brodeur just as Toronto Shayne Corson landed on the goalkeeper, but the blame goes to Devils defenceman Colin White who cross-checked Corson into Brodeur. The Devils thought the goal should have been disallowed due to goalkeeper interference, but since the defender was forced into the goalkeeper, the goal was upheld, and the Leafs escaped New Jersey with a road win, giving them a three-games-to-two lead.
The Devils responded well though, as Petr Sykora scored the first goal early in the first period, but Leafs' winger Steve Thomas put a shot past Brodeur early in the second period to tie the game up at one goal apiece. Randy McKay and Brian Rafalski (game-winning) would score within five minutes of each other to close the second period and take a two-goal lead into the third. Early on in the third period, Mats Sundin would score a powerplay goal to put the Leafs within one goal, but nearly four minutes after that, Jason Arnott would score the final goal of the game, and the Devils went on to win it four goals to two and force game seven.
The Maple Leafs came roaring out as Steve Thomas scored a powerplay goal about halfway through the first period. Even though New Jersey was trailing at the start of the second period the Devils had a lot left in the tank as Patrik Elias scored two goals in the second period. The second period concluded with New Jersey leading by three goals. The Devils held the Leafs off the entire period and John Madden added another goal about halfway through the period. The Devils went on to win 5–1 and series four games to three.
(5) Buffalo Sabres vs. (6) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Sabres just couldn't put the puck past Johan Hedberg in game one, and the Penguins only needed star center Lemieux's first-period goal to finish off Buffalo and take an early series lead. Buffalo goalkeeper Dominik Hasek gave up three goals, the other two goals came courtesy of centres Wayne Primeau and Jan Hrdina in the third period. Penguins winger Jaromir Jagr, who assisted on the Lemieux goal in the first period, injured his leg in the third period and would miss game two.
In game two during the second period Penguins centre Robert Lang scored a goal to give the Penguins a one-goal advantage, but the advantage would only last about three minutes until Sabres centre Stu Barnes tied the game up with the only powerplay goal of the game. Pittsburgh scored two more goals in the third period one by defenceman Ference and an empty-net goal by Kovalev.
The Penguins scored on the power play in the second period to take the lead. Buffalo centre Curtis Brown tied the game up with an even-strength goal and the period ended at a one-goal tie. Hedberg had been solid in the net for the Penguins, but the third period features three goals against him out of 11 shots. At the halfway point of the third period, Sabres defenceman Jason Woolley scored the go ahead goal and three minutes later Miroslav Satan scored another goal to give Buffalo a two-goal lead. Defenseman James Patrick finished off the game with an empty-net goal and the Sabres won the game 4–1.
Building off the road win in game three Buffalo scored the first goal in game four very early in the first period by centre Jean-Pierre Dumont, but the Penguins responded with a powerplay goal by center Martin Straka. Sabres centre Curtis Brown scored a short-handed goal late in the first period to give Buffalo the edge heading into the locker rooms. The second period featured only one goal by Janne Laukkanen set up by Jagr and Lemieux and the game was tied going into the third. Stu Barnes scored twice in the third period and the Sabres went on to win the game by three 5–2.
Penguins wingman Jaromir Jagr initiated the scoring in game five with a powerplay goal. Pittsburgh tacked on another goal early on in the second period scored by Aleksey Morozov. Sabres centre Chris Gratton responded with a powerplay goal and the Penguins still had the lead until they gave up another short-handed goal to Curtis Brown. Brown's goal forced overtime, and Stu Barnes scored the game-winning goal to give Buffalo the series lead. Game five was the first overtime game in the string of three that would end the series.
Buffalo's right winger Maxim Afinogenov scored in the first period of game six to give the Sabres an early lead. Pittsburgh's Alexei Kovalev tied the game up early in the second period. Donald Audette broke the tie game with an even strength goal late in the second period. Pittsburgh scored the tying goal with less than a minute to go in the third period courtesy of Mario Lemieux. Martin Straka was the hero for the Penguins as he scored the game-winning goal in the first overtime period.
In game seven Buffalo struck first as Jean-Pierre Dumont scored very early in the second period but the one-goal lead wouldn ot last as Andrew Ference scored a powerplay goal to even things up at one goal apiece. Buffalo struck again early in third period as winger Steve Heinze scored a powerplay goal. Robert Lang scored to tie the game up at two. Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis won the game and the series for the Penguins as he scored in the first overtime period.
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings
Despite 37 shots on goal against Kings goalkeeper Felix Potvin, the Avalanche lost their first game of the playoffs in game one. Glen Murray had a goal for the Kings, and centre Chris Drury scored a goal for the Avalanche in the first period. In the second period Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake gave his team the lead until Nelson Emerson put one past Avalanche goalkeeper Roy to even it up at two goals apiece. Murray scored another goal for the Kings in the third period to give the Kings the lead, but center Peter Forsberg tied it up at three with a power play goal late in the third. In overtime, the Avalanche took two minor penalties, one of which led to the game-winning power play goal by Kings defenseman Jaroslav Modry.
In the second period of game two Avalanche winger Ville Nieminen scored a power play goal to give his team the lead. Captain Joe Sakic put another goal past Potvin late in the third period to clinch the victory and tie the series at one game apiece. Patrick Roy stopped all 20 shots he faced notching his 16th playoff shutout.
In game three Rob Blake started the scoring as he launched the puck past Potvin, but Kings left winger Luc Robitaille tied the game at one goal apiece with a power play goal. Peter Forsberg tacked on another goal for the Avalanche in the second period. In the third period Avalanche winger Milan Hejduk scored to give his team a two-goal lead. Two minutes later Kings forward Glen Murray scored a powerplay goal to reduce the lead to just one goal. Shortly after Murray's goal, Avalanche defenseman Jon Klemm scored his first goal of the playoffs to retake a two-goal lead for his club. In the final minute of the game, Kings winger Ziggy Palffy scored to cut the lead in half, but it was not enough as the Avalanche went on to win the game. Avalanche star Joe Sakic injured his shoulder in this game and would sit out part of the series.
In game four Avalanche goalkeeper Patrick Roy was at his best as he stopped all 21 shots against him and recorded his second shutout in the series. The was[clarification needed] only scoring was in the second period on goals by Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, and Chris Drury. Game five featured outstanding play from both Roy and Potvin. Los Angeles scored one goal in the game courtesy of Luc Robitaille in the third period.
Despite 65 shots between both teams only one goal was scored in game six. Kings winger Glen Murray scored the game-winning goal at 2:14 into the second overtime as the Kings shut out Avalanche for the second straight game.
Game seven's first goal came late in the first period when Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake scored a power play goal to give his team a one-goal lead. The Kings' Nelson Emerson tied the game in the second period. Chris Drury started the scoring for Colorado in the third period, followed by Nieminen, Shjon Podein, and Hejduk's empty net goal with about five minutes to go winning game seven by a score of 5-1.
In game one the teams exchanged goals 53 seconds apart, the first by Blues centre Pavol Demitra, and the response goal came from unassisted from Dallas' John MacLean. Marty Reasoner scored the go ahead goal late in the first to give the Blues a lead going into the second period. In the second period Marty Reasoner scored a goal and centre Pierre Turgeon added another goal. Dallas Stars defenceman Brad Lukowich scored the only other goal for Dallas. Dallas Stars star centre Mike Modano injured his leg in game one and he did not return in the series.
Marty Reasoner scored an even strength goal less than two minutes into game two to give the Blues an early lead. Right winger Scott Young's shorthanded goal in the first period expanded the lead to two goals. In the third period Dallas tried to make a comeback with less than one minute in the game when Joe Nieuwendyk scored. That goal would be the only one Dalls would put past Roman Turek who shone for the second consecutive game.
Dallas came out in game three and left winger Mike Keane scored the opening goal. Stars right winger Brett Hull opened the second-period scoring with a power play goal of his own, but St. Louis left winger Jochen Hecht would cut the Dallas lead in half after flipping an Al MacInnis slap shot rebound into the open side of the net, the Stars maintained the lead entering the final period. The Stars fended off the Blues offense for more than 17 minutes of the third period, but then Blues defenseman Alexander Khavanov scored to even the game at two goals apiece. Cory Stillman scored the game-winning goal in double overtime on a slap shot from the top of the right circle after receiving a pass from Scott Mellanby giving the Blues the victory.
St. Louis scored the first marker in the second period as defenseman Alexander Khavanov scored on a rebound off a Pierre Turgeon breakaway chance. About five minutes later Keith Tkachuk scored a power play goal on a rebound off of an Al MacInnis slap shot to give the Blues a two-goal cushion. Joe Nieuwendyk responded with a goal late in the second period. St. Louis poured it on in the third period with two more goals, one by defenseman Chris Pronger and an empty-net goal by Scott Young. The Stars could not overcome Turek and they were swept for the first time since 1984, when they were known as the Minnesota North Stars.
(1) New Jersey Devils vs. (6) Pittsburgh Penguins
In game one Petr Sykora scored a pair of goals for New Jersey, as they won by a score of 3–1. In game two the Devils came out firing in the first period scoring twice in the first period and holding the Penguins to only seven shots. Jay Pandolfo scored an even strength goal while Petr Sykora scored one short-handed in the first period. The Penguins scored three goals in the second period to give the Pittsburgh the lead. Robert Lang scored early in the third period to cushion the Penguins lead, and the Penguins came out on top 4–2.
New Jersey dominated Pittsburgh in game three. Brian Rafalski and Jason Arnott scored in the first period. Patrik Elias scored early in the third period. Martin Brodeur made 20 saves to shutout the Penguins. This was Brodeur's eleventh career shutout in the postseason and it was also the first time the Penguins were shut out at home in the postseason since 1975.
The Devils dominated game four as Patrik Elias scored late in the first period to give the Devils a one-goal lead going into the second period. Brian Rafalski and Petr Sykora each scored in the second period and Jason Arnott added another goal in the third while Rafalski netted his second of the game on a powerplay. The Penguins were shutout for the second consecutive game and Martin Brodeur recorded his twelfth career playoff shutout.
Jason Arnott scored less than a minute into game five. Alexei Morozov countered with a goal of his own late in the period, and the game was knotted at a goal apiece going into the second period. Jason Arnott scored again in the second period on the powerplay to reclaim the lead for his team. Bobby Holik added to Arnott's goal, and the Devils took a two-goal lead. Martin Straka scored shortly after Holik's goal to put the Penguins back within one goal going into the third period. Early in the third period the Devils quashed any hopes of a comeback when John Madden slapped the puck past Johan Hedberg to give the Devils another two goal lead. The Devils held onto the lead and won the series.
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (4) St. Louis Blues
Joe Sakic scored two of his team's four goals in game one, he scored on a penalty shot that was awarded when Blues goaltender Roman Turek was ruled to have thrown his stick. The Avalanche scored two more goals and won game one by three goals, 4–1. Ray Bourque opened scoring in game two on a power play goal in the first period. Scott Mellanby scored a Power Play goal on a perfect mid-air deflection of an Al MacInnis wrist shot in the second period to tie the game at a goal apiece. Later in the second period Adam Foote shot the puck past Roman Turek to give Colorado a one-goal lead going into the third period. Colorado scored two more goals in the third period and the Avalanche won the game 4–2.
The teams traded power play goals in the first period of game three before Dan Hinote broke the 1–1 tie. Halfway through the third period Scott Mellanby evened the score up at two apiece on a 2-on-1 break, scoring his third goal of the playoffs. The teams traded goals before the end of the third period and the game remained tied after regulation time. In the second overtime Blues winger Scott Young scored on a wrist shot from the slot that beat Patrick Roy, giving the Blues a 4–3 victory. Colorado scored three goals in 1:18 in the first period of game four. St. Louis centre Pierre Turgeon scored two consecutive goals for the Blues in the second period. Blues winger Jamal Mayers tied things up early in the third period and the series went to overtime for the second consecutive game. Avalanche winger Stephane Yelle won the game for his club on a deflection shot at 4:23 of the first overtime period.
Colorado struck first in game five as Milan Hejduk broke the tie in the second period with a power play goal his seventh of the playoffs. Shortly after Blues defenseman Bryce Salvador evened the game with a goal. For the third game in a row overtime was needed to determine a winner. Less than half a minute into the first overtime Avalanche center Joe Sakic scored the game winning and series clinching goal as Colorado won the game 2–1.
This was the first and to date only playoff series between these two teams. Colorado made their second Finals appearance and first since defeating Florida in four games in 1996. New Jersey made their second consecutive and third overall Finals appearance after defeating Dallas the year before. This is the most recent time that both top seeds in each conference made the Stanley Cup Finals in the same year.
Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic led the playoffs in scoring for the second time in his career. He scored 13 goals and amassed 26 points. Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils finished second in playoff scoring with 23 points. He led the playoffs in assists with 14.