You couldn’t have scripted it any better if it were a Disney movie.
In his first career playoff game, Dallas Stars rookie forward Joel Kiviranta piled on three goals Friday, including the game-winner in Dallas’ 5-4 overtime Game 7 victory over the Colorado Avalanche .
To make the matters more interesting, Kiviranta, who came to Dallas as an undrafted free agent, shouldn’t have even been in the lineup Friday. Forward Andrew Cogliano was deemed unfit to play after Game 6, creating a spot on the fourth line for the 24-year-old who hadn’t played since August 20 against Calgary. He skated in the Stars’ August 9 qualifier game as well, his first action since February 13 against Toronto.
After nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead, the win punches Dallas’ ticket to the third of the Stanley Cup Playoffs round for the first time in 12 years, where it lost to the eventual champion Detroit.
Nothing was easy for Dallas in the series against a resilient Avalanche team and that was certainly the case for game seven as well.
Dallas got the first goal from Alexander Radulov, but costly miscues led to a pair of Colorado goals before the first intermission.
The Stars came out flat in the second period as well, but Kiviranta’s first career playoff goal off a deflection leveled the score. Colorado gained the advantage again only for Kiviranta to answer the call 10 seconds later.
The Finnish forward sealed the deal with a wrist shot from Andrej Sekera and John Klingberg seven minutes into the overtime period.
Dallas’ game seven win gets a proverbial monkey of its back. The elimination game marked the third different time the Stars had reached that point in the last five years, and both times prior, it took losses to St. Louis- once in 2016 and the other last April.
Despite allowing four goals, goalie Anton Khoudobin prevented plenty of Colorado scoring chances from getting by. He stopped a whopping 40-of-44 attempts including 9 out of 10 on the Power Play. Ben Bishop was seen at the Rogers Center near general manager Jim Nill, but was again deemed unfit to play after suiting up just once in the best-of-seven.
Dallas only got two chances with the man advantage, but capitalized on both. They also killed off three Colorado penalties, emboldening it’s already above-average penalty kill. It was a welcome change for the Stars, who, after scoring 19 goals int the first four games of the series, pushed just four past underdog story netminder Michael Hutchinson.
The Stars move on to face the winner of the Vegas-Vancouver game later on Friday night.
Similar to Dallas, the Golden Knights led their series three games to one over the upstart Canucks, but will have to fight to clinch their second trip to the conference finals since entering the league in 2017.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is expected to take place Sunday with a start time TBD.
In a series controlled by momentum shifts, Dallas ultimately overcame a horde of issues in Games 5 and 6 and had the momentum when it needed it most. The Stars ultimately ended up scoring the final set of back-to-back tallies in a series that saw several massive runs of goals.
You never know where goal scoring will come from, but for Dallas, looking more and more like a cinderella run deep into the postseason- it got them from Kiviranta, who’s looking more like a prince in his own right.
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