10 most entertaining NHL Playoff series of all-time

2009 Stanley Cup Finals
Andy from Pittsburgh, United States, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There are many postseason matchups worthy of the title of best NHL Playoff series. Playoff hockey is one of the most exciting times on the sports calendar, especially when fans witness an entertaining NHL Playoff series between two rivals.

Best NHL Playoff series

Many of the greatest NHL postseason series have a lot of things in common. The best series have multiple close games, lots of goals, heated on-ice exchanges between rivals, and the series usually goes the distance. Some of the most exciting series feature the best NHL postseason games in history.

What is the best NHL Playoff series of all time? With 15 playoff series each season, there are many to choose from in deciding the greatest NHL postseason series.

10. Lightning vs Flames: 2004 Stanley Cup Finals

It was the first time these two teams faced off against each other in the postseason. Calgary was looking for their second Stanley Cup, while Tampa Bay was in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.

The teams split the first four games, as the series went back to Tampa for game five. The Flames would take the game in overtime 3-2 and had a chance to clinch the Cup at home in game six. Martin St. Louis kept the Lightning’s season alive in game six, scoring the game-winner 33 seconds into double overtime.

In the deciding game seven, Ruslan Fedotenko scored twice for the Lightning, which was enough to secure Tampa Bay’s first Stanley Cup in a 2-1 victory.

9. Canadiens vs Blackhawks: 1971 Stanley Cup Finals

There was not much separating the Canadiens and Blackhawks in the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals. Six of the seven games in the series were won by two goals or less.

Montreal rallied from being down a goal in the third period of game six to force a game seven in Chicago. Every game in the series was won by the home team heading into the deciding game.


Game seven proved to be one of the best games of the series. The Canadiens battled back after going down 2-0, as Henri Richard scored his second of the game to give Montreal a 3-2 lead. They would hang on from there, capturing their third Cup in four years.

8. Islanders vs Penguins: 1993 Patrick Division Finals

The Penguins were big favorites entering the 1993 series against the Islanders. New York was missing their key center, Pierre Turgeon, but that did not stop them.

The Islanders took game one 3-2 in Pittsburgh and then tied the series at two with a 6-5 game four victory. In game six, the Islanders scored three goals in the third period to force a game seven.

In the deciding game, New York let a two-goal lead slip away as the game went into overtime tied 3-3. However, the Islanders would recover, scoring 5:16 into overtime to send the Penguins home.

7. Islanders vs Capitals: 1987 Patrick Division Semi-Finals

One of the best NHL Playoff series ever, the Islanders and Capitals battled it out for basically eight games in 1987.

The Capitals were the better team in the first four games and led the series 3-1. The Islanders got a big win in game five on the road to keep the series alive and came back from behind in game six to even the series at three.

In game seven, New York tied the game at 2-2 with under six minutes remaining, which sent the game to overtime. The teams played a full other game, going three overtime periods without a goal. Islanders center Pat LaFontaine would finally end it in the fourth overtime to complete New York’s 3-1 series comeback.

6. Penguins vs Red Wings: 2009 Stanley Cup Finals

The 2009 Stanley Cup Finals had it all. Great goaltending, star players, momentum swings, and unlikely heroes made it one of the most entertaining NHL Playoff series.

Detroit won the first two games at home, and then Pittsburgh did the same in games three and four. The two teams continued to trade home victories as the series would end up going to a game seven.

In the deciding game, Maxime Talbot would become the unlikely hero for the Penguins. He would score twice in the second period to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead. With key saves from Marc-Andre Fleury in the dying seconds, the Penguins became the first team since 1971 to win game seven of a Cup Finals on the road.

5. Kings vs Maple Leafs: 1993 Clarence Campbell Finals

With four games decided by one goal, which included two in overtime, the 1993 Clarence Campbell Finals was one of the best NHL Playoff series in history.

After Toronto tied the series at two, the Maple Leafs and Kings traded overtime winners in games five and six to send the series to a seventh and deciding game.

Wayne Gretzky, who had two goals through the first six games of the series, scored a hat-trick in game seven to push Los Angeles past Toronto 5-4. Maple Leafs forward Doug Gilmour led the series with 13 points, while Wendel Clark and Gretzky each had 10 points.

4. Avalanche vs Devils: 2001 Stanley Cup Finals

There was no such thing as home-ice advantage in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. Four of the seven games in the series were won by the road team.

The teams split the first four games of the series. After a 4-1 victory on the road, New Jersey was just one win away from the Stanley Cup. However, Patrick Roy would not let that happen. Roy stopped all 24 shots he faced in game six as Colorado won 4-0.

Alex Tanguay was the key player in game seven for the Avalanche, as he scored the first two goals of the game. Colorado would defeat the Devils 3-1 to win their second Cup in franchise history.

3. Kings vs Blackhawks: 2014 Western Conference Finals

In what was the series of the decade, the 2014 Western Conference Finals acted more like the Stanley Cup Finals that year.

After being down 3-1 in the series, Chicago got a massive double-overtime win in game five to avoid elimination. On the road in game six, the Blackhawks got another big victory thanks to Patrick Kane’s late third-period goal in a 4-3 win.

Game seven was a high-scoring battle, as the Kings closed the door on a Chicago comeback. Alec Martinez scored in overtime to take game seven by a score of 5-4.

2. Red Wings vs Rangers: 1950 Stanley Cup Finals

The 1950 Stanley Cup Finals was as close as a series can get.

After a comeback overtime win in game four, the Rangers took game five in overtime as well to take a 3-2 series lead. Game six produced the highest-scoring game of the series, as the Red Wings scored two goals in the third for a 5-4 victory.

In game seven, the score was knotted up at three at the end of regulation. After the first overtime solved nothing, the game finally got its hero. Pete Babando scored his second of the game 8:31 into the second overtime to clinch the Stanley Cup for Detroit.

1. Rangers vs Devils: 1994 Eastern Conference Finals

With three double-overtime games in the series, the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals was the best NHL Playoff series of all time.

New Jersey won the first double-overtime game in game one of the series, while the Rangers won the second one in game three to go up 2-1 in the series. The Devils won two of the next three games, sending the series to a seventh game in New York.

Game seven provided fans with one of the best NHL postseason games ever. The game went into overtime after the Devils tied it up with eight seconds left. After remaining tied, the game went into double overtime, where the Rangers made history. Stephane Matteau scored the game-winner, sending the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, which they would go on to win.

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About Justin Gincauskas 24 Articles
Justin Gincauskas is a professional writing major at Kutztown University. He is also a member of the Kutztown Men's Tennis Team. Justin has a passion for sports and hopes to turn his professional writing major into a career in the field of sports writing.

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