The 1995 Stanley Cup Final NHL championship series was contested by the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. This was the first of nine consecutive finals with American-based franchises exclusively. New Jersey was making the franchise's first appearance in the Finals, while Detroit returned to the Finals for the first time since 1966 (and had not won since 1955; both of those appearances had been against the Montreal Canadiens). The Devils swept the series four games to none to win their first Stanley Cup, becoming the sixth team to earn a championship having joined the league in 1967 or later.
Despite the fact that the regular season was cut severely short by the owners' lockout, both the season and the finals were saved at the eleventh hour–this would be the latest in June that the Stanley Cup was awarded (matched in 2013). The Devils won their first Stanley Cup, after 21 seasons and two franchise relocations. It was also the first of three for the Devils in less than a decade. The win was made more impressive by the fact that the Devils won it holding the lowest seed ever to win the Stanley Cup with the fifth seed, which remained the record until 2012, another Final which not only involved the Devils, but also saw the Stanley Cup won by a team that did not have home ice advantage in any of the four rounds of the playoffs, as the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings. Their regular-season winning percentage was also the lowest since the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs. They were the underdogs going in, winning their first two games on the road.
This series featured the two teams that have gone to the finals at least four times since the NHL renamed the conferences before the 1993–94 season. Including 1995, the Devils have been to the Finals five times, while the Red Wings have appeared in the Finals six times. It also marked the beginning of a series of wins the Devils, Red Wings, and Colorado Avalanche would establish in the era from 1995 to 2003. The three teams would win a combined eight of nine Stanley Cups during that time. The Devils won it here, followed by the Avalanche in 1996, then the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. After the Dallas Stars won in 1999, the four-year cycle repeated as the Devils started it again in 2000, followed by Colorado in 2001, Detroit in 2002, and the Devils themselves again in 2003.
To get to the Final, New Jersey defeated the Boston Bruins 4–1, the Pittsburgh Penguins 4–1, and their rival the Philadelphia Flyers 4–2.
Detroit defeated the Dallas Stars 4–1, the San Jose Sharks 4–0, and rival Chicago Blackhawks 4–1.
The series opened on Saturday, June 17 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Few gave New Jersey much of a chance against the NHL's best team. Going into the game, Detroit was a perfect 8–0 at home in the playoffs, and had outscored their opponents 30–11 in their eight home games. In the first three rounds alone the Red Wings had scored 18 power-play goals. Detroit fans, first greeting their opponents with a chorus of boos, then chanted after every Devils name was read during introductions, "Who cares?"
After a scoreless first period, the underdog Devils got on the board first, when Stephane Richer blasted a slap shot from the top of the right circle that just squeezed through Detroit goaltender Mike Vernon. The power-play goal came at 9:41 of the second period and gave New Jersey a 1–0 lead. The Red Wings responded less than four minutes later and tied the game on a power-play goal by Dino Ciccarelli at 13:08. The Devils would regain the lead on a goal by Claude Lemieux, a slapper from the slot at 3:17 of the third period. New Jersey would go on to win the game 2–1 and take a one-game-to-none series lead. They played a solid defensive game, frustrating the Red Wings and holding them to just 17 shots. The win was their ninth road win of the playoffs.
In game two, Detroit played with a sense of urgency. Vyacheslav Kozlov scored on the power play at 7:17 of the second period to make the score 1–0 in favor of the Red Wings. Devils forward John MacLean would tie the game at 1–1 less than two and a half minutes later with a goal at 9:40. Then, on a Detroit breakaway, New Jersey defenceman and captain Scott Stevens laid a thundering body check on Kozlov as he made a move to the inside past the New Jersey blue line. Although the Red Wings regained the lead on Sergei Fedorov's goal at 1:36 of the third period, the Stevens hit seemed to inspire the Devils. With the midway point of the third period approaching, New Jersey defenceman Scott Niedermayer picked up the puck in his own zone and skated up the ice. Once over the Detroit blue line, he got a step on Detroit defenceman Paul Coffey and fired a shot towards the Detroit net. Although the puck missed the net, it bounced off the end boards and came right back to Niedermayer, who shot it past Mike Vernon to tie the game at 2–2. The game remained tied until late in the third period. Devils defenceman Shawn Chambers fired a shot from the point and the rebound came right to Jim Dowd who backhanded the puck into the net to give the Devils a 3–2 lead. Stéphane Richer would add an empty-net goal as New Jersey won, 4–2.
Game three, the very first NHL game ever played after the official summer solstice, shifted the series back to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. During Game 1, the Detroit crowd taunted the Devils by collectively jeering "Who cares?" after each player was introduced. The Devils fans countered by raining boos down on the visiting Red Wings and delivering chants of "Red Wings suck." The Devils did their talking on the ice, dominating the Red Wings, scoring five consecutive goals. Bruce Driver, Claude Lemieux, Neal Broten, Randy McKay, and Bobby Holik all scored to give the Devils a 5–0 lead with 11:46 remaining in the game. Detroit scored twice on power-play goals by Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman at 16:57 and 18:27 of the third period, but it was insufficient to keep New Jersey from winning a 5–2 game. They now had a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the series.
The Devils jumped out to a 1–0 lead on Neal Broten's goal just 68 seconds into the game. However, the Red Wings were fighting to stay alive and tied the game on Sergei Fedorov's goal just 55 seconds later. Coffey scored a shorthanded goal at 13:01 to give Detroit a 2–1 lead. New Jersey responded less than five minutes later, at 17:45 on a slap-shot goal by Shawn Chambers that beat Mike Vernon glove-side. Then, in the second period, Scott Niedermayer passed to Broten, who chipped the puck over Vernon's glove from just in front of the net. The goal, Broten's second of the game, gave the Devils a 3–2 lead. New Jersey would increase its lead with goals by Sergei Brylin and Chambers (his second of the game) at 7:46 and 12:32 of the third period. The Devils won the game 5–2 and the series four games to none. It was New Jersey's first Stanley Cup Championship in team history. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur allowed just seven goals against the Red Wings in the series and Devils forward Claude Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, having led all skaters in playoff goals with 13. He would win the Stanley Cup again the very next season with the Colorado Avalanche.
In the United States, this was the first year that Fox broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals. Fox broadcast games one and four with Mike Emrick and John Davidson, while ESPN broadcast games two and three with Gary Thorne and Bill Clement. Because the Devils swept the Red Wings and game four of the series was on Fox, their television play-by-play announcer, Mike Emrick, called the win, alongside John Davidson, as they both were the lead broadcast team. That game, the first Stanley Cup-clinching game to air on network television in the United States since game six in 1980, drew a 4.7 rating and a 10 share. In the New York City area, the game drew a 10.6 rating and 21 share and in Detroit, 14.1 and 26.
In Canada, Bob Cole and Harry Neale were in the broadcast booth as usual.
On the radio side, the series was broadcast continentally on NHL Radio with Kenny Albert and Gary Green announcing. Devils team broadcasters Mike Miller and Sherry Ross called the series on local radio on WABC–AM 770 in New York City and Red Wings team broadcasters Bruce Martyn and Paul Woods called the series on local radio on WJR–AM 760 in Detroit, Michigan.
The Devils narrowly missed a playoff berth by two points in the 1995–96 season, losing out to the fourth year Tampa Bay Lightning on the final day of the season. In retrospect, however, the 1995 Cup run started a mini-dynasty for the Devils, as they also won Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003, under head coaches Larry Robinson and Pat Burns respectively. Martin Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens were the only players to play in every Devils' Stanley Cup title run.
The Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy again the following season, thanks to a record-setting 62-win campaign. However, the Colorado Avalanche, who had moved from Quebec City as the Nordiques, defeated them in six games of the conference finals. This started a lengthy rivalry between the two teams, which culminated in a brawl between the two teams at Joe Louis Arena in 1997. That brawl became the catalyst for Detroit's run to two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998, ending a 42-year title drought. The Red Wings later added two more Stanley Cups in 2002 and 2008, hiking their total to 11.
The 1995 Cup Finals started a four-year period where every Cup Final was a sweep, which ended when the Dallas Stars needed six games to beat the Buffalo Sabres in 1999.