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Joel Kiviranta OT goal, hat trick lift Stars to Game 7 win vs Avalanche

Joel Kiviranta, Stars, Avalanche, NHL

Joel Kiviranta of the Dallas Stars picked the perfect time to have the greatest game of his young NHL career. The NHL rookie scored a hat trick in Game 7 of the NHL Western Conference semifinal against the Colorado Avalanche, completing the hat trick with a game-winning overtime goal to carry the Stars into the Western Conference Final in Edmonton.

Kiviranta, 24, has bounced around several clubs in his professional hockey career, but only this season did he finally break into the NHL with the Stars. On what is regarded as a veteran club whose championship window is closing rather than expanding, it rates as an eye-popping plot twist that the Stars were rescued by one of the younger, less experienced players on their roster.

Dallas was on the verge of losing this West semifinal series after taking a three games to one lead. The Avalanche battled back to win Games 5 and 6 to tie the series. In this rare afternoon Game 7 on Friday — part of the NHL’s weird bubble-based playoff schedule but also due to conflicts with NBC Sports horse racing coverage — the Avalanche established two separate one-goal leads over the Stars in the third and final period.

Dallas found answers each time.

Colorado led 3-2 and 4-3 in the third period. The Avs took their 4-3 lead with just 3:40 remaining in regulation. That’s when Kiviranta stepped forward. He scored his second goal of the game just 10 seconds after Colorado’s go-ahead goal, ushering the Stars into sudden-death Game 7 overtime.

Kiviranta then slotted home the winner on a close-in shot to lift the Stars to a sweet victory.

Dallas had lost in the second round of the 2019 NHL Playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. By advancing past the second round this time, the Stars hope they can carry momentum much as the Blues did a year ago.

In the upcoming West Final, the Stars will face the winner of Game 7 of the other West semifinal between the Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights.