|2003||Devils d. Lightning 4-1 in East Semis|
|2004||Lightning d. Islanders 4-1 in East Quarters|
|Devils d. Lightning 4-2 in East Quarters
Rangers vs. Lightning in East Final
|2007||Giants d. Buccaneers 24-14 in Wild Card|
Let's take a closer look at each of the previous four New York-Tampa playoff meetings.
2003 East Semis
Through their first ten seasons of existence, the Tampa Bay Lightning averaged a .378 points percentage and reached the postseason just once (a 4-2 first-round loss to the Flyers in 1996). Things turned around under coach John Tortorella as Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and company won the Southeast Division in 2003. Despite losing the first two games at home to the Capitals, the Lightning came back to win their first-round series in six games to set up a meeting with the Devils, who dispatched Boston 4-1 in their opening set.
In Game One, Jamie Langenbrunner broke a 0-0 tie in the third period for the first of three New Jersey goals in a 3-0 victory. The Lightning led Game Two by a goal with ten minutes left, but Grant Marshall tied it up. Only two minutes into overtime, Langenbrunner became the hero again, scoring on Nikolai Khabibulin to give New Jersey a 2-0 series lead.
Back at home in Tampa, the Lightning raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game Three, but gave all three back in the second period. Dave Andreychuk put Tampa in front with a goal six minutes into the third, which was enough for a 4-3 win to bring them back in the series. The Devils answered with a 3-1 victory in Game Four to take control of the series.
Down 3-1, Tortorella benched Khabibulin for John Grahame in Game Five. Both teams scored in the first period, but both Grahame and Martin Brodeur held the opposition scoreless in the second and third...and overtime...and a second overtime. Finally, just past the midway point of the third overtime, Grant Marshall knocked in the game-winner to push the Devils into the Eastern Conference Final.
New Jersey outlasted Ottawa in seven games to reach the Stanley Cup Final, where despite Jean-Sebastien Giguere's Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance, the Devils beat Anaheim 4-3 to lift their third Cup in nine years.
2004 East Quarters
The Lightning recovered the following season. St. Louis won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player as the team racked up 106 points to secure the best record in the Eastern Conference. The 1-vs-8 first round matchup pitted Tampa Bay against the New York Islanders.
The first four games were all 3-0 decisions, with Khabibulin shutting out the Isles in Games One, Three and Four and Rick DiPietro winning Game Two. Tampa Bay had the Islanders on the ropes in Game Five, which headed to overtime tied at two. Only four minutes into the extra period, St. Louis slapped home the game-winner to win the series.
The Lightning swept Montreal before edging the Flyers in seven games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against Calgary. The Flames had a chance to win the series at home in Game Six, but St. Louis scored in double overtime force a Game Seven back in Tampa, which the Lightning won 2-1 for their first championship.
2007 East Quarters
The Devils were 47-24-8 and cruising to the Atlantic Division title when GM Lou Lamoriello fired head coach Claude Julien with three games left in the regular season so he could coach the team himself. Their first-round opponent was the seventh-seeded Lightning.
Zach Parise scored twice in the opener to help give the Devils the win in Game One, but Tampa Bay answered with two wins on tiebreaking third-period goals by Lacavalier and Vinny Prospal. The Devils were up 3-1 on their way to tying the series in Game Four, but St. Louis and Lecavalier scored to force OT. New Jersey recovered and won in overtime on Scott Gomez's goal that tied the series 2-2. Brodeur posted a 31-save 3-0 shutout in the fifth game before the Devils closed it out in Game Six. Brian Gionta scored twice in New Jersey's 3-2 win.
The Devils were upset in the next round, however, by the fourth-seeded Ottawa Senators. They were eliminated in a Game Five loss that was the final game played at Continental Airlines Arena.
2007 Wild Card
The New York Giants overcame an 0-2 start to go 10-6 and grab a wild card spot. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the NFC South at 9-7, getting home-field advantage despite their inferior record. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia had beaten the Giants twice before in the postseason with two different clubs (2002 49ers, 2006 Eagles).
Earnest Graham's 1-yard touchdown plunge provided the only scoring of the first quarter, giving Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead. The Giants came back with touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the second, both by Brandon Jacobs (one receiving, one rushing).
Michael Spurlock fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, giving the Giants a short field for a 25-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal and 17-7 advantage. Corey Webster, who recovered the fumble, intercepted Garcia in the end zone on the next drive to thwart another Tampa Bay scoring chance. Ahmad Bradshaw keyed a 15-play, 92-yard drive in the fourth that put the game away. Eli Manning capped it with a 4-yard strike to Amani Toomer, making it 24-7 New York. A late TD trimmed the lead to ten, but the Bucs' last-gasp effort ended when Garcia was picked off by R.W. McQuarters.
The Giants moved on to face top-seeded Dallas in the divisional round. They knocked off the 13-3 rival Cowboys, then went to Lambeau and took down the 13-3 Packers in one of the NFL's coldest games ever to advance to Super Bowl XLII. They completed their miraculous run by beating the 18-0 Patriots 17-14 for one of the biggest upsets in sports history.