Stars Upset Favorite Avalanche To Advance To Western Conference Finals
A hat trick from rookie Joel Kiviranta and two goals from Alexander Radulov got them there.
“It’s our turn. It’s our time,” Rick Bowness said after the game. He continued that there was never panic in the Stars as they faced overtime in Game 7.
That panic might not have been apparent in the locker room, but fans watching the game were far from calm. After watching the team open the scoring, blow a lead, tie it three times, there was no telling who would come out on top once the game hit overtime.
Unlike we’ve seen in the last two games, Dallas actually started this one looking like they were ready to go. After a bit of an adventure, of course. The first shot Anton Khudobin faced ended up with him off to the side and a wide open net for a wrap-around chance. Luckily, the Avalanche flubbed the chance in part thanks to the Stars defense in front of the net.
It started to turn around for Dallas not long later. They were able to draw the first penalty of the game early in the period. Alexander Radulov and the top unit were able to strike first thanks to net front presence. He was in the best position to pounce on a Miro Heiskanen point shot giving Dallas their first power play goal of the game.
Just over a minute later, Colorado would shift momentum back their way.
Vladislav Namestnikov would tie the game up for Colorado partially due to Mattias Janmark being slow to come off the ice thanks to a big shot block he took in the arm. Ian Cole shot the puck towards the net, and the Stars had traffic in front of Khudobin after the change as Janmark came off. Namestnikov had the key redirect for the goal.
Andre Burakovsky would give Colorado their first lead of the night after Jamie Oleksiak failed to cleanly clear the puck out of the defensive zone. The puck was picked off by Andre Burakovsky, and while many Stars were turned up ice, Burakovsky changed the direction of play back towards Khudobin’s net. He had a clear look at the net and sniped one right past the Stars goaltender.
Colorado would take the 2-1 lead into intermission.
Joel Kiviranta, playing today for the injured Andrew Cogliano, made his playoff debut. He used his speed to draw a penalty early in the second period, and with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker on the delayed call, he found himself with some time and space. He shot the puck at Hutchinson from center ice up near the blue line, and it made its way to the net with a little redirect along the way to tie it up at two apiece.
Less than three minutes later, Nazem Kadri would capitalize on the Avalanche power play to restore the lead. On a second power play chance in the period, he nearly made it a two goal lead when he rang one off the post loud enough to be heard in Dallas.
The rest of the period was spent with Dallas finding themselves with mroe time in the offensive zone. Colorado did a good job of keeping them away from the dangerous looks, but Dallas seemed to be feeling their game finally in the dying minutes.
It took more than half of the period, but the Stars’ extended play in the offensive zone paid off when they drew just their second power play of the game courtesy of Radulov. He would then record his second of the night on the man advantage when he set up shop in Michal Hutchinson’s net. John Klingberg’s shot from center ice near the blueline was redirected to tie the game up.
In a lot of ways, the third period was as close as you would expect it to be in a Game 7. That’s when Namestnikov looked like he was going to put the dagger in the Stars’ postseason with a goal scored with just 3:40 left in the game.
But that resiliency the Stars have shown all season — and all series — long showed itself once again. Kiviranta, making his NHL postseason debut, scored just 10 seconds later to tie the game at four and would force an eventual overtime period. His goal came from the slot when he was left completely uncovered with space between the four Avalanche defenders in their own zone.
Honestly, with how Dallas played right up until the whistle of regulation, it felt like a Stars win was predestined. Joe Pavelski and the Stars had a lot of looks in tight on the net as the seconds ticked off in the third period, with Pavelski coming within inches of scoring as the horn sounded.
Dallas had 50 percent of the high danger scoring chances in overtime. It honestly could have gone either way. That is, until Andrej Sekera took the puck behind the net and drew the attention of the Avalanche defenders. With everyone puck watching, Kiviranta made an amazing read of the defensive situation and extracted himself from the net-front fight to open himself up to take a centering feed. Sekera hit him square on the tape, and Kiviranta snapped the puck immediately off his stick and past Hutchinson’s glove side.
The rookie’s hat trick marks the first time in NHL history that one team has had two rookies score hat tricks in the postseason. (The other rookie was Denis Gurianov, who scored a hat trick in the first round versus the Calgary Flames.)
And with that, the Stars are off to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2008. There’s really only one way to end this game recap: the Finnish goal call of Kiviranta’s game winning goal, when they reportedly said “Joel Fucking Kiviranta.”
What a mood.