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League's "most-hated player' grabs Conn Smythe Trophy

A Claude Lemieux hat trick is scoring a timely goal, delivering a bone-jarring hit and driving an offensive opponent crazy.

The Devils' pest on the right wing has done all three consistently in the playoffs.

He's one of the most-hated players in the NHL. But now he can add the title of Conn Smythe Trophy winner to his resume.

When commissioner Gary Bettman handed him the trophy, Lemieux's eyes swelled with tears.

"To be the most-hated man in hockey and have your name on the Conn Smythe Trophy, that's pretty special," he said.

Lemieux scored a league-high 13 goals in the playoffs and had a team-high plus/minus rating of plus 12.

"He deserved it," said teammate Scott Stevens, who also was a candidate for the trophy along with goalie Martin Brodeur.

Lemieux was mediocre at best during the regular season, with six goals, 13 assists and a plus/minus rating of plus 2 in 45 games.

But coach Jacques Lemaire said Lemieux has the knack for raising his play in the playoffs. "The playoffs do bring out the best in me," Lemieux has said.