Kiviranta: The Unlikely Hero Of Game Seven

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 04: Joel Kiviranta #25 of the Dallas Stars is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first overtime period to win Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 04, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars are ready to the Western Conference Finals after an overtime thriller against the Colorado Avalanche. In what was one of the most entertaining games of the season, the Dallas Stars won game seven after a legendary performance from Joel Kiviranta

A Wild Start To The Game

The period had barely begun before the game almost found its first goal. A fairly simple shot from Logan O´Conner almost went through Anton Khudobin. A scramble in front happened to get the loose puck but the Stars defenders were quickest to the puck. 

Moments later the Stars got a powerplay opportunity. A chance they took full advantage of when a shot from Miro Heiskanen created a rebound in front of Michael Hutchinson. Alexander Radulov was first to the rebound and with a wide-open net, he was able to jam the puck into the net for an early lead to Dallas.

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Photo by: Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d)

However, the lead didn’t last long. A few minutes after the goal the Avalanche tied things up after a shot from Ian Cole was tipped by Vladislav Namestnikov. The redirection went through the legs of Khudobin and the game had its second in just four minutes. A massive goal and responds for the Avalanche to get right back into the game.

Burakovsky Strikes Again

The hectic start continued as less than a minute late Blake Comeau had a massive chance to retake the lead. A major giveaway by the Avalanche in their own zone sent him in all alone with Hutchinson. Hutchinson made himself big and forced Comeau to lose his handle on the puck as he tried to move the puck past the Avalanche goaltender.

The games’ next goal happened around midway through the period when Andre Burakovsky made a great interception on Jamie Oleksiak. Without hesitation, he cut in, and with a wonderful shot, he found the top right corner, leaving no chance for Khudobin. A fantastic turnaround for the Avalanche, who one again had overcome early adversity.

The Avalanche got the chance to double their led when Joel Hanley was sent to the box. Sadly for the Avalanche, the powerplay never quite got going and it was a wasted chance on the man advantage. The Avalanche did however take the one-goal lead into the intermission after a wild first period.

Quick Responds From Colorado

After the first period, where there was no shortage of chances, it would be easy to dream of a game in the same manner. Normally intermissions tend to tighten things a bit more and make the game a bit more structured. This time, however, it was different.

The first chance came after a few minutes where Samuel Girard in a beautiful solo effort, almost found the back of the shot. The shot went just wide and instead, the Stars capitalized seconds later on a delayed penalty. A shot from Denis Gurianov was tipped in front by Kiviranta and suddenly the game was tied.

The story of the game and series has been the Avalanche’s resilience and ability to come back from goals against. This was the case once again as Matthew Nieto almost immediately retook the lead when he got a breakaway. However, Khudobin robbed his backhand attempt in a spectacular fashion.

This was an omen of what was to come. On a powerplay of their own, the Avalanche and Nazem Kadri made it 3-2. A shot from a sharp angle by Mikko Rantanen caused a scramble in the crease and here Kadri was able to poke the puck into the net. 

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Photo by: Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d)

The Avalanche Domination

Nathan MacKinnon hadn’t been visible in the games the first half, but with a great rush, he drew another penalty that gave the Avalanche to potentially get control of the game. The powerplay was excellent but somehow the Stars survived thanks to the post and strong netminding by Khudobin.

The Avalanche was starting to dictate the pace of the game and was creating the majority of the offense. Rantanen for instance had a golden chance but fanned on a wide-open shot from the slot. However within the period of dominance, the Stars almost found the equalizer when Mattias Janmark got a breakaway, but his backhander was denied by Hutchinson.

A great stop by Hutchinson, but a few minutes later he was outshined by his Dallas counterpart. After a rebound, Kadri found space with the puck and had a wide-open net. Kadri did everything right and even managed to elevate the puck towards the net, but a miraculous glove save from Khudobin kept the Stars in the game.

Near the end of the periods with the seconds winding down, the Stars applied a bunch of pressure. Hutchinson made a few good stops and looked to have weathered the storm. However, in a last-ditch effort, Roope Hintz threw the puck on net. On the ensuing rebound, Radek Faksa was able to put the puck into the net, but sadly for the Stars, the time had expired and the Avalanche remained in the lead going into the third period. 

The Game-Changing Tripping 

Like the first and second period the start of the third didn’t take long before the first chance arrived. Within the first three minutes, both teams had great chances. The first when Khudobin had to make a wonderful stop on a deflected shot and moments later when Jamie Benn just missed a wide-open net with a one-timer.

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Photo by: Dinur Blum (@rabbi_d)

The Avalanche got yet another chance on the man advantage after Radulov went to the sin-bin. But like prior chances to double the lead, it was unable to find the back of the net. Instead, it was Radulov who was able to draw a penalty seconds after he got out of the box. The call was soft as it looked like Radulov stepped on J.T. Compher stick to draw it.

This controversial call out to be a potential turning point as the Dallas Stars for the second time scored on the powerplay. Midway through the penalty, John Klingberg found room on the point and send a wrist shot towards the net. In front was none other than Radulov who made a great deflection for his second of the game. A massive goal for the Stars, while it left the Avalanche stunned and angry at the referees

A Crazy Ending Leads To Overtime

For once the Avalanche wasn’t able to take control and respond to the Stars game-tying goal. Instead, Gurianov almost gave Dallas their first lead since the first period with 6 minutes left of the game. With Hutchinson down and out, he somehow managed to hit the post, despite having a wide-open net.

Best as it looked like the Stars was gaining momentum, the game took yet another turn. After a great tip by Compher caused a rebound from Khudobin, it was Namestnikov who was first to the puck. In the high slot, he was able to lift the puck over the glove of a sprawling Khudobin and retook the lead for the Avalanche.

A goal that should have been the dagger for the Stars. It should have killed all their momentum but this game was far from over. Because less than ten seconds later the game was tied. Hintz finished off a great passing movement and forced a rebound from Hutchinson. This time it was Kiviranta who was first to the puck and the rookie made no mistake.

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Chaos was reigning supreme in Edmonton and the game seemed far from done. The game was just waiting for its next twist and turn. With 90 seconds left, Cole almost was able to finish up the game but the post kept the Stars season alive.

This should have been the last chance of the period, but once again the Stars got close late. With 15 seconds remaining Benn had the game on his stick but his shot from the slot was turned aside by Hutchinson and shortly after he robbed Joe Pavelski at the buzzer.  After a crazy game and series, it was fittingly going to be determined in overtime.

Joel “The Hattrick Hero” Kiviranta

Like the game itself, the overtime was highflying and fast to star. First when Girard once again almost got loose for a big chance and shortly afterward when Pavelski almost was able to deflect a shot from Radulov into a wide-open net. The biggest chance of the opening however fell to Jason Dickinson who almost was able to cut inside and jam the puck past Hutchinson who hung on.

The Stars almost won the game when the Avalanche got caught deep in the Stars zone. After a good rush into the zone, Hintz fired a wrister towards the net. A shot that shouldn’t have troubled Hutchinson caused a poor rebound and chaos in front of the Avalanche net.

With the Avalanche scrambling and unable to organize themselves, the game was won by an unlikely hero. In only his third playoff game Joel Kiviranta won the Stars the series and game 7, with his hattrick. After a wonderful pass from Andrej Sekera from below the goal line, he fired a rocket past Hutchinson and send the Stars into the Western Conference Finals. 

The 2020 Avalanche Post-Mortem

On the other side is the Colorado Avalanche who did most things right this season. They had talent up and down the lineup with Kadri, Burakovsky, and Cale Makar having breakout seasons. The roster even had a superstar in MacKinnon, who has been the best hockey player in the world since the restart. They even found a way to comeback from the dead multiple times in the series against the Stars.

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

But despite their best efforts, the end it wasn’t enough to overcome and this will take a long time to recover from but this is far from the last we heard from the Colorado Avalanche in the coming years. 

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