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The Greatest NHL Conference Finals of all time

Besides the Stanley Cup, the NHL's Conference Finals are the biggest stages in the sport and we have taken a look at three of the greatest ever played.

Throughout the NHL's history, all-time great teams, players and coaches have risen to the occasion and etched their names into the history books as they vie to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Here are three of the best.

Rangers vs. Devils (1994)

Often considered one of the most exciting series of hockey ever played, the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils was an emotional, hard-fought series.

The drama began in the series opener. With the Rangers up 3-2 and a minute remaining in regulation, New Jersey forward Claude Lemieux scored a game-tying goal on a loose puck in front of Rangers' goalie Mike Richter.

The game remained tied until New Jersey's Stephane Richer's breakaway goal in the second overtime period sealed the victory for the Devils, taking a 1-0 series lead.

The Rangers then knotted the series at one game apiece with a 4-0 shutout victory in Game 2. For Game 3 and Game 4, the teams travelled to the Meadowlands, giving the Devils a home-ice advantage.

Game 3 was another matchup for the history books, as the Rangers won a 3-2 nail-biter in overtime after a Stephane Matteau goal in the second overtime period, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

However, they wouldn't hold on to that lead for long, as the Devils took Game 4 in a 3-1 home win to tie the series at two games each. The Devils rode this momentum into Game 5, winning 4-1 after traveling back to Madison Square Garden and taking a 3-2 series lead.

With the Rangers' back against the wall, captain Mark Messier made a comment that will forever be remembered by hockey fans. Despite being down 3-2 and losing each of the last two games, Messier made a widely-publicised statement guaranteeing victory for the Rangers in Game 6.

Messier did all he could to ensure his guarantee was not in vain in Game 6. Entering the third period, the Rangers were down 2-1, however, Messier scored three goals in the final period alone to seal the 4-2 victory in one of the most famous individual performances in the history of the sport.

The entire series – and a trip to the Stanley Cup – was on the line in Game 7, played at Madison Square Garden. The game was a 0-0 deadlock through the first 1.5 periods before Brian Leetch's second-period goal put the Rangers ahead 1-0.

Both teams' goalies – Martin Brodeur for the Devils and Mike Richter for the Rangers – put on incredible performances throughout Game 7, which led to an enormous level of suspense. Richter had a shutout going into the final seconds of the game before New Jersey's Valeri Zelepukin tied the game at 1-1 with just 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation.

The pivotal Game 7 moved to overtime, where both goalies continued their historic play. However, in the second period, Stephane Matteau scored a wrap-around goal with 4:24 into the second overtime period to win the series for the Rangers and send them to the Stanley Cup Finals, putting a cap on what many believe to be the greatest playoff series in NHL history.

Kings vs. Blackhawks (2014)

Often considered the greatest playoff series of the past decade, the 2014 Western Conference Finals was a highly-anticipated matchup between the two most recent winners of the Stanley Cup. It was also a rematch of the prior season's Western Conference Finals, adding to the intrigue and rivalry.

Game 1 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals went to the Blackhawks in a 3-1 victory. The Blackhawks were led by Brandon Saad – who contributed a goal and assist in the victory – and goalie Corey Crawford, who recorded 26 saves.

Game 2 was a bit of a back-and-forth affair. The Blackhawks took an early 2-0 lead, but failed to generate any offense for the rest of the game. The Kings took advantage of this scoring lull and put six pucks into the back of the net, taking and holding a 6-2 lead to tie the series at one game each. The Kings' Jeff Carter recorded a hat trick in the win.

Game 3 was another interesting matchup, with the Blackhawks taking a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play on the back of two first-period goals by Jonathan Toews. However, the Kings responded in a big way, scoring two goals in the second period and fending off the Blackhawks for a 4-3 final score.

With momentum on their side, the Kings capitalized in Game 4, scoring four goals in the first two periods and taking a lopsided 6-2 victory to move the series to 3-1 in Los Angeles' favor.

Game 5 was the beginning of the turnaround for Chicago. They came out the gate motivated, capturing a 3-1 lead in the first period; however, the Kings fought back and tied the game. This tie persisted until the second overtime period, where Michal Handzus' goal with 2:04 remaining sealed the Blackhawks' 5-4 win.

Game 6 was a similarly back-and-forth affair, with the lead alternating throughout the game. The Blackhawks ended up winning the game 4-3 and knotting the series at three games each.

The pivotal Game 7 saw the Blackhawks come out on fire. Chicago scored both of the game's first two goals, taking an early 2-0 lead; however, the Kings cut into their deficit with one of the most controversial goals in the history of the NHL.

On a breakaway, Kings forward Jeff Carter put the puck in the net to cut the lead to 2-1. Many viewers and analysts believed that Carter was offside, though the officials allowed play to continue and the goal to stand.

With momentum mounting, the Kings' Justin Williams scored a goal to tie the game at two; however, Patrick Sharp scored two subsequent goals to take the lead for Chicago. With regulation time dwindling, the Kings needed a big play to erase their one-goal deficit and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That's exactly what they got with a late third-period goal by Marian Gaborik. With the game tied at 4, it headed into overtime. The wild series finally came to a close 5:47 into overtime after an Alec Martinez wrist shot from deep was deflected into the net, sending the Kings to their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.

Canadiens vs. Bruins (1979)

The late 1970s featured one of hockey's most memorable rivalries; the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins saw each other in the Finals in 1977 and 1978, with the Canadiens winning both series.

Both Finals were characterized by tough play and back-and-forth series leads, and the 1979 series served as the conclusion to the saga between the two talented teams.

The Canadiens started the series off strong, sprinting out to a 2-0 series lead after 4-2 and 5-2 victories at home. With the series moving to the Boston Garden, the Bruins shifted the momentum, taking Game 3 in a hard-fought 2-1 win to move the series to 2-1.

Game 4 was even more contested. With the Bruins holding a 3-2 lead in the third period, Guy Lapointe scored a game-tying goal toward the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. A Jean Ratelle goal 3:46 into overtime sent the Bruins home victorious, tying the series at two games apiece.

After traveling back to Montreal, the Canadiens used their home-ice advantage to dismantle the Bruins in a 5-1 victory; however, the Bruins quickly bounced back in Game 6 with a dominating 5-2 win of their own to again tie the series at three games. This set the stage for perhaps the most memorable Game 7 in hockey's illustrious history.

Game 7 saw Boston come out to an early 3-1 lead after two Wayne Cashman goals in the second period; however, Montreal fought back and tied the game in the third. With four minutes left in regulation play, the Bruins' Rick Middleton scored a crucial goal to take the lead; with the goal, Montreal's grasp on the heated rivalry began to slip.

However, momentum shifted once again about a minute later after Boston committed a costly, boneheaded penalty when they had too many men on the ice. In the ensuing power play, Montreal's Guy Lafleur tied the game once again, forcing overtime to determine which team would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

About halfway through the first overtime period, Montreal's Yvon Lambert broke through and scored the game-clinching goal, solidifying the Canadiens' dynasty and sending them to their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.

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