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.

The Stanley Cup, awarded to the champion of the NHL.

Playoff bracket[edit | edit source]

  First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals Stanley Cup Final
1  Philadelphia 4  
8  Tampa Bay 2  
  1  Philadelphia 2  
  4  Florida 4  
3  Pittsburgh 4
6  Washington 2  
  4  Florida 4  
Eastern Conference
  2  Pittsburgh 3  
2  NY Rangers 4  
7  Montreal 2  
  2  Pittsburgh 4
  3  NY Rangers 1  
4  Florida 4
5  Boston 1  
  E4  Florida 0
  W2  Colorado 4
1  Detroit 4  
8  Winnipeg 2  
  1  Detroit 4
  5  St. Louis 3  
4  Colorado 4
5  Vancouver 2  
  1  Detroit 2
Western Conference
  2  Colorado 4  
2  Chicago 4  
7  Calgary 0  
  2  Colorado 4
  3  Chicago 2  
3  Toronto 2
6  St. Louis 4  

First Round[edit | edit source]

Eastern Conference[edit | edit source]

Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay
Date Away Home
April 16 Tampa Bay 3 7 Philadelphia
April 18 Tampa Bay 2 1 Philadelphia OT
April 21 Philadelphia 4 5 Tampa Bay OT
April 23 Philadelphia 4 1 Tampa Bay
April 25 Tampa Bay 1 4 Philadelphia
April 27 Philadelphia 6 1 Tampa Bay
Philadelphia wins series 4–2
Pittsburgh vs. Washington
Date Away Home
April 17 Washington 6 4 Pittsburgh
April 19 Washington 5 3 Pittsburgh
April 22 Pittsburgh 4 1 Washington
April 24 Pittsburgh 3 2 Washington 4 OT
April 26 Washington 1 4 Pittsburgh
April 28 Pittsburgh 3 2 Washington†
Pittsburgh wins series 4–2

† Last playoff game at USAir Arena.

NY Rangers vs. Montreal
Date Away Home
April 16 Montreal 3 2 NY Rangers OT
April 18 Montreal 5 3 NY Rangers
April 21 NY Rangers 2 1 Montreal*
April 23 NY Rangers 4 3 Montreal
April 26 Montreal 2 3 NY Rangers
April 28 NY Rangers 5 3 Montreal
NY Rangers wins series 4–2

* First playoff Game at Molson Center.

Florida vs. Boston
Date Away Home
April 17 Boston 3 6 Florida
April 22 Boston 2 6 Florida
April 24 Florida 4 2 Boston
April 25 Florida 2 6 Boston
April 27 Boston 3 4 Florida
Florida wins series 4–1

Western Conference[edit | edit source]

Detroit vs. Winnipeg
Date Away Home
April 17 Winnipeg 1 4 Detroit
April 19 Winnipeg 0 4 Detroit
April 21 Detroit 1 4 Winnipeg
April 23 Detroit 6 1 Winnipeg
April 26 Winnipeg 3 1 Detroit
April 28 Detroit 4 1 Winnipeg*
Detroit wins series 4–2
Colorado vs. Vancouver
Date Away Home
April 16 Vancouver 2 5 Colorado
April 18 Vancouver 5 4 Colorado
April 20 Colorado 4 0 Vancouver
April 22 Colorado 3 4 Vancouver
April 25 Vancouver 4 5 Colorado OT
April 27 Colorado 3 2 Vancouver
Colorado wins series 4–2
Chicago vs. Calgary
Date Away Home
April 17 Calgary 1 4 Chicago
April 19 Calgary 0 3 Chicago
April 21 Chicago 7 5 Calgary
April 23 Chicago 2 1 Calgary
Chicago wins series 4–0
Toronto vs. St. Louis
Date Away Home
April 16 St. Louis 3 1 Toronto
April 18 St. Louis 4 5 Toronto OT
April 21 Toronto 2 3 St. Louis OT
April 23 Toronto 1 5 St. Louis
April 25 St. Louis 4 5 Toronto OT†
April 27 Toronto 1 2 St. Louis
St. Louis wins series 4–2

* Last NHL playoff game in Winnipeg
† Last Playoff game at Maple Leaf Gardens

Conference semifinals[edit | edit source]

Eastern Conference
Florida vs. Philadelphia
Date Away Home
May 2 Florida 2 0 Philadelphia
May 4 Florida 2 3 Philadelphia
May 7 Philadelphia 3 1 Florida
May 9 Philadelphia 3 4 Florida OT
May 12 Florida 2 1 Philadelphia* 2OT
May 14 Philadelphia 1 4 Florida
Florida win series 4–2
NY Rangers vs. Pittsburgh
Date Away Home
May 3 NY Rangers 1 4 Pittsburgh
May 5 NY Rangers 6 3 Pittsburgh
May 7 Pittsburgh 3 2 NY Rangers
May 9 Pittsburgh 4 1 NY Rangers
May 11 NY Rangers 3 7 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh wins series 4–1

* Last Flyers game at the Spectrum

Western Conference
St. Louis vs. Detroit
Date Away Home
May 3 St. Louis 2 3 Detroit
May 5 St. Louis 3 8 Detroit
May 8 Detroit 4 5 St. Louis OT
May 10 Detroit 0 1 St. Louis
May 12 St. Louis 3 2 Detroit
May 14 Detroit 4 2 St. Louis
May 16 St. Louis 0 1 Detroit 2OT
Detroit wins series 4–3
Chicago vs. Colorado
Date Away Home
May 2 Chicago 3 2 Colorado OT
May 4 Chicago 1 5 Colorado
May 6 Colorado 3 4 Chicago OT
May 8 Colorado 3 2 Chicago 3OT
May 11 Chicago 1 4 Colorado
May 13 Colorado 4 3 Chicago 2OT
Colorado wins series 4–2

Eastern Conference Finals[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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.

In game five back at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, the Penguins shut out the Panthers 3–0. Tom Barrasso stopped all 28 Florida shots he faced.

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 | edit source]

Florida vs. Pittsburgh
Date Away Home
May 18 Florida 5 1 Pittsburgh
May 20 Florida 2 3 Pittsburgh
May 24 Pittsburgh 2 5 Florida
May 26 Pittsburgh 2 1 Florida
May 28 Florida 0 3 Pittsburgh
May 30 Pittsburgh 3 4 Florida
June 1 Florida 3 1 Pittsburgh
Florida wins series 4–3
and Prince of Wales Trophy

Western Conference Finals[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

As expected, game one at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit was a hard-fought battle. The score was tied 2–2 in the first overtime period when Mike Keane scored at 17:31 to give Colorado a 3–2 win.

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 | edit source]

Colorado vs. Detroit
Date Away Home
May 19 Colorado 3 2 Detroit OT
May 21 Colorado 3 0 Detroit
May 23 Detroit 6 4 Colorado
May 25 Detroit 2 4 Colorado
May 27 Colorado 2 5 Detroit
May 29 Detroit 1 4 Colorado
Colorado wins series 4–2 and
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl

Stanley Cup Finals[edit | edit source]

Colorado vs. Florida
Date Away Score Home Score Notes
June 4 Florida 1 Colorado 3
June 6 Florida 1 Colorado 8
June 8 Colorado 3 Florida 2
June 10 Colorado 1 Florida 0 3OT
Colorado wins series 4–0
and Stanley Cup
Joe Sakic (Colorado)
wins Conn Smythe Trophy

Preceded by
1995 Stanley Cup playoffs
Stanley Cup Champions Succeeded by
1997 Stanley Cup playoffs

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