|The series shifted to the St. Pete Times Forum where another tense battle unfolded. In their home building, the Lighting jumped out to a 3-0 lead. New Jersey captain Scott Stevens was forced to leave the game but the unfazed Devils fought back to even the contest at 3-3. It was Tampa Bay's captain though who was the hero, as Dave Andreychuk scored the lone goal of the third period to secure the Game 3 victory for the Bolts. The determined Devils rallied in Game 4 as Elias grabbed the go-ahead goal before the returning Stevens put the game away with a power play goal of his own. Brodeur out-dueled Khabibulan in net as New Jersey won 3-1 and took a commanding 3-1 series advantage.
Near the midway point of the first period in Game 5, Tampa Bay drew first blood as Nikita Alexeev put the Lightning ahead. The Devils answered back minutes later when Scott Niedermayer drove to the net and beat net-minder John Grahame. The two teams fiercely fought the next two periods but neither could find a go-ahead goal. Entering overtime, the teams were drained but continued to combat one another with punishing checks and fought into triple overtime. The Devils came down ice on an odd-man break as Scott Niedermayer took a shot from the point that fell to Marshall who buried the series winner and the Continental Airlines Arena erupted.
The last hurdle on the Devils' path to the Stanley Cup Finals was the Ottawa Senators. The Sens finished top seed in the Eastern Conference and posed an extremely difficult match-up. The Senators were loaded with stars as Daneyko explained, "When we faced Ottawa we knew they were the deepest and best team in the East. We knew we would have our hands full playing guys like Chara, Havlat and Alfredsson."
Ottawa's home, the Corel Centre was the venue for the series opener and the Senators took an early 2-0 advantage scoring two goals in quick succession. The Devils battled back as Nieuwendyk then Pandolfo found goals in the second period to draw the game even at 2-2. As the third period came to a close, neither team could find the winner as the game went into overtime. Shaun Van Allen tipped in a pass from Martin Havlat to give the Senators the game 1 victory, foreshadowing what was to come in this fiercely contested series.
Tommy Albelin helped the Devils find the early momentum with his opening goal of Game 2. Before the first intermission, Jeff Friesen unleashed a rocket to double their advantage to 2-0. Shortly into the second period, Radek Bonk gave the Senators hope of a comeback but Madden increased New Jersey's lead to 3-1 by beating the race down ice and scoring late in the second period.
Before the final siren, Pandolfo's goal sealed the win as the Devils marched to a 4-1 victory. Brodeur was sensational in net only allowing a single goal to Ottawa's sharpshooters and making 30 saves. After the game captain Scott Stevens admitted, "It was looking pretty bleak from everybody after we lost the first game but we felt we wanted to come and get this game tonight. We battled hard and got a big team effort from everyone."
Back at the Meadowlands, Game 3 began with an odd no-goal decision after the goal light did not go on. Burns was outraged, as a review was not given as he watched the puck go in on the Corel Center big screen. Undeterred, the Devils found the only goal of the evening through Sergei Brylin. Again, Brodeur was magnificent between the pipes as he earned the shutout making 24 saves.
New Jersey clearly had the upper hand in the series as they went into Game 4. Marshall gave the Devils the early lead on the power play but just before the close of the first period Ottawa equalized. It looked it had the makings of a tight game as the Senators took a 2-1 lead in the second period but Pandolfo leveled the affair before the second intermission. The Devils then piled on the Senators to the tune of a 5-2 victory and were within one game of moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ottawa wasn't giving up that easy as they stormed back in Game 5, winning 3-1 with Stevens notching the lone New Jersey goal. Game 6 was a bitter pill for the Devils to swallow as the two teams battled hard for three periods with Radek Bonk and Joe Nieuwendyk trading power play goals. The tense affair spilled over into overtime and a pile-up in front on net created a loose puck that Chris Phillips buried. Ottawa had staved off elimination, forcing a penultimate Game 7 in their home building.
Daneyko who returned to the lineup for Game 6 and took part in the trilling Game 7 explained the feeling going into the deciding game. "After they won Game 6 in double overtime, they thought the series was over. There couldn't have been any more tension going into the 7th Game," he remembered.
Magus Arvedson gained the early advantage in the first period for the Senators and the Devils were in need of inspiration. With Nieuwendyk forced off with a hip injury, someone had to provide a spark. Step forward, Jamie Langenbrunner. Brylin's shot was blocked and fell to Langenbrunner who intelligently shot the puck off Anton Volchenkov's foot and into the net to even the game. Just minutes later, Jamie grabbed ahold of a loose puck and fired a shot past Patrick Lalime. In less than two minutes, Langenbrunner had found the tying and go-ahead goals in a dramatic Game 7.
"Our goal was to finish as high was we could and get home ice advantage. We ended up playing Ottawa game 7 in their building. They were first place and Jamie had a really nice to goal at the beginning of the game to get us back in it," Madden remarked.
Shortly after the start of the third period, Friesen made a costly turnover leading to a Radek Bonk goal that evened things up. Burns and his teammates challenged Friesen and he delivered a moment of ecstasy for Devils' fans. Marshall made a terrific move down the wing and made a terrific pass which Friesen finished for the game-winner. He told reporters postgame, "I couldn't even react, I couldn't even describe what that was like. It just happened to work out that I got a chance to get that big goal."
Stevenson mentioned the importance of having experienced players, "We knew what needed to be done. As a group we added Grant Marshall, Jamie and Nieuwendyk who all had the experience of winning in Dallas. Grant was a big pick up by Lou. We were banged up late in the season and he stepped right in. Obviously, he provided a big goal against Ottawa."
Brian Gionta, who went on to be a fan favorite on the Devils, had experienced his first taste of a thrilling game 7 in Ottawa. He gave his recollection of the moment, "We went through the Boston and Tampa series in five. Against Ottawa we had the lead and gave it up in Game 7. I think that's the most memorable thing. They scored a big goal in the third period and we were able to come back late with Jeff Friesen scoring from Grant Marshall. The excitement of that game and being in a building in game 7 was unbelievable."