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TSN.ca looks back at the NHL's greatest regional rivalries

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TSN.ca Staff
4/2/2012 4:20:17 PM
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The Stanley Cup playoffs have long been the setting for some of the sport's most dramatic rivalries.

Teams paired off by circumstance have become heated rivals after repeated clashes and have formed some of the game's unforgettable moments.

But while Vancouver-Chicago has dominated the past few springs around the NHL, the rivalries with civic pride and geographical proximity are among the longest-standing and deepest-running the game has to offer.

Here's a look back at some of the greatest moments in the NHL's top geographical rivalries.

Battle of Alberta - Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers:

Though the feud has cooled with both teams missing the playoffs for three consecutive years, the almost-annual clashes that dominated the Smythe Division playoffs in the 1980s laid a strong foundation. The teams combined for nine straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Final between 1983 and 1990 with their paths crossing en route on four occasions.

Last Meeting: 1991 Smythe Division semifinal (Oilers won 4-3)

Playoff past: Oilers 4 (19-11); Flames 1 (11-19)

Memorable Moment: It seems strange that the most memorable in a rivalry dominated by the Oilers dynasty should come from the one round that the Flames won. The decisive moment in Calgary's win in 1986 came when defenceman Steve Smith banked a pass off Grant Fuhr and into his own net, handing the Flames the lead and - eventually - the series.

New York Melodrama – New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers

The ebb and flow of the Empire State rivalry has followed the rise and fall of the Big Apple's franchises. Two years after entering the NHL via expansion, the Islanders drew the Rangers in their first ever playoff series. The Rangers would counter in the teams' second meeting but since then, the teams have taken turns dominating the series. The Islanders took the first match-up and continued to have the Blueshirts' number through their dynasty years. However, the Rangers have dominated since the onset of the 1990s, losing only one game in two series, including a sweep en route to the team's 1994 Stanley Cup victory.

Playoff Past: Islanders 5 (20-19); Rangers 3 (19-20)

Last Meeting: 1994 Eastern Conference quarter-finals (Rangers won 4-0)

Memorable Moment: While the teams' playoff clashes have been memorable, the real animosity tends to flow between these teams in the regular season. The animosity between the teams has boiled over to into two memorable brawls that involved goalie fights. Dan Cloutier took on Tommy Salo in 1998 before challenging the Rangers bench. In 2007, a preseason game featured a line-brawl that saw the Rangers' Al Montoya skate 200 feet to exchange punches with Rick DiPietro at Nassau Coliseum.

Battle of Ontario - Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

It took some time for the Senators to overcome their expansion status, but soon after the team notched its first playoff series victory in 1998 the team's fortunes would be constantly tied to the Maple Leafs. The Battle of Onatrio burned as the hottest rivalry in hockey between 2000 and 2004 with the teams clashing four times in five years. The Leafs would win all four series, but have not made a playoff appearance since 2004, the year the teams last met. The Senators, meanwhile, made a run to the Cup final in 2007 and have made the playoffs in five of the seven post-lockout seasons.

Playoff Past: Maple Leafs 4 (16-8); Senators 0 (8-16)

Last Meeting: 2004 Eastern Conference quarter-finals (Maple Leafs won 4-3)

Memorable Moment: The 2002 series between the two left a mark on both sides for varying reasons. The Senators opened with a 5-0 shellacking of the Leafs. A triple-overtime thriller gave the Leafs game two, but the Senators would take a series chokehold in game five after Daniel Alfredsson's controversial hit on Darcy Tucker and game-winning goal just seconds later. However, leading in Game 6, defenceman Ricard Persson took a boarding penalty that would allow the Leafs to storm back and eventually win. The Leafs would blank the Senators in Game 7.

Penn State Punch-Ups - Flyers vs. Penguins

Despite entering the league together in 1967, the Pens and Flyers did not meet in the playoffs for over 20 years, clashing for the first time in 1989. The blend of skill and grit that has formed the formation of both teams has led to chippy, highlight-filled contests for much of the past 15 years. After Sunday's fight-filled contest the teams will meet again in Saturday's season finale. The teams are highly likely to meet again in the first round of the playoffs and should that happen, Saturday's game will likely decide which team gets home-ice.

Playoff Past: Flyers 3 (15-14); Penguins 2 (14-15)

Last Meeting: 2009 Eastern Conference quarter-finals (Penguins won 4-2)

Memorable Moment: The Penguins went into overtime in the fourth game of the teams' 2000 series with a chance to take control of the set. Facing the prospect of going down 3-1, however, the Flyers fought back. Keith Primeau would score the game-winning goal in the fifth overtime period, ending the longest game in modern playoff history. Philadelphia would go on to win the next two games and take the series.

Battle of Quebec – Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques

The rivalry may be dead for now, but the bad blood remains between the cities' fans to this day. The iconic Canadiens and upstart Nordiques first met in the playoffs in 1982 and would go on to meet in four of the six following playoff years. The Canadiens topped the Nordiques in a series that featured three overtime-winners en route to the team's last Stanley Cup in 1993. The rivalry was forced to an end with the Nordiques moving to Colorado in 1996, but Montreal fans had to watch as many long-serving Nordiques won a Stanley Cup in front of the recently-departed Patrick Roy. Should the NHL return to Quebec City, it won't take much to resuscitate these two fan bases.

Playoff Past: Canadiens 3 (17-14); Nordiques 2 (14-17)

Last Meeting: 1993 Adams Division semifinal (Canadiens won 4-2)

Memorable Moment: Take your pick. This rivalry is so heated and balanced that a playoff series between the two teams has never been decided in less than six games. However, the high point of the animosity has to be the 'Good Friday Brawl' in 1984 a 5-3 Canadiens win. By final count, the game featured 252 penalty minutes and 10 ejections… to say nothing of Louis Sleigher knocking Habs defender Jean Hamel out cold and effectively ending his hockey career.

Deryk Engelland, Wayne Simmonds (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
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