Kiviranta nets OT winner as Stars take game seven to advance past Avalanche

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Joel Kiviranta capped his hat trick by scoring the overtime winner as the Dallas Stars punched their ticket to the NHL Western Conference finals Friday with a 5-4 win in game seven over the Colorado Avalanche.

Kiviranta got open in front of the Colorado net and took a pass from Andrej Sekera then beat Avs goaltender Michael Hutchinson with a one-timer 7:24 into the overtime.

It was the first career hat trick for the 24-year-old Finn, who also scored in the second period to tie the game 2-2 and in the third to tie it 4-4 which set the stage for his overtime heroics in the NHL's quarantine hub in Edmonton, Alberta.

"This is what you dream about when you are a young kid," said the 24-year-old rookie forward, who scored just one goal in the regular season. "This is the first game seven in my life. I didn't know what to expect."

Kiviranta's second goal came late in the third and just 10 seconds after Vladislav Namestnikov had scored to give Colorado a 4-3 lead with 3:40 left.

The Stars advance to the NHL's final four where they will face either the Vancouver Canucks or the Vegas Golden Knights who took the ice later on Friday in another game seven.

Despite having to rally three times from deficits on Friday -- from 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 -- the Stars controlled the play and look more confident with the puck in overtime.

Whenever the Stars and Avalanche have met there has been plenty of fireworks and this series was no different. In seven games the two teams combined for 57 goals.

The teams have met in three game sevens in history and the Stars have now won them all.

Slovakian defenceman Sekera started the play on the winning goal by skating along the boards then stopping behind the Colorado goal and waiting for Kiviranta to give the Avalanche defenceman the slip and get open.

"Their defence lost me a bit and they didn't know who was going to pick me up. I tried to find a soft spot and it was a great pass," Kiviranta said.

Kiviranta is an undrafted free agent who joined the Stars last year after spending his entire career playing for teams in Finland.

He played just 11 games this season for Dallas and was inserted into the lineup halfway through this series to replace injured forward Andrew Cogliano.

Russian Alexander Radulov also scored twice for Dallas, who advanced to their first Conference finals since 2008.

Namestnikov scored twice and Andre Burakowsky and Nazem Kadri had a goal each for Colorado, who also lost in a game seven in the second round last year.

Colorado All-Star Nathan MacKinnon failed to get a point Friday, snapping his consecutive point streak at 14 games.