The series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of the NHL’s modern classics.
Yes, in game six of that series, Colorado’s Claude Lemieux sucker-punched Detroit’s Kris Draper and sent the Red Wings forward to the hospital. That game also sent Colorado to the Stanley Cup Finals after eliminating Red Wings in four games.
That game and that event was the beginning of a 10-year rivalry between the two teams.
But you might have forgotten, game five of that series was almost as intense. Naturally, game five is to this day overshadowed by game six and the Lemieux vs. Draper incident, but the physical play was at the same level.
After a slow start in the series, Detroit was forced to win at home in the Joe Louis Arena. Led by Russian Five, the Red Wings came out and dominated Colorado.
Kozlov, Fedorov, and Larionov scored three of the five goals in the 5-2 win, and defender Vladimir Konstantinov also contributed.
His thunderous hit on Claude Lemieux (who else?) made the crowd in a packed Joe Louis Arena go absolutely wild.
This has to be one of the best checks in Stanley Cup history:
Then game six happened, and one of the greatest hockey rivalries of all time was born.