Joel Kiviranta, making his series debut, stepped into Game 7 for the Dallas Stars and completed his hat-trick with the overtime-winning goal to end the Avalanche’s season Friday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
The 5-4 loss was Colorado’s fifth consecutive Game 7 defeat.
Colorado led 4-3 with 3:40 remaining when forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored his second of the game. But Kiviranta, a rookie, answered 10 seconds later to tie and eventually force overtime.
The Avs haven’t won a Game 7 since the second round in 2002, which helped them reach the Western Conference Final. And for the second consecutive year, they fell in Game 7 in a Western Conference semifinal series, failing to reach the third round since that 2002 series against Detroit.
“Our goal was our goal and we didn’t accomplish it. So it hurts, it sucks,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
Kiviranta’s game-winning shot came off a pass from Andrej Sekera from behind the net at 7:24 of OT. It was the only shot Dallas recorded in the extra frame after Colorado put four on goalie Anton Khudobin.
“We felt like we were outplaying them in overtime and it was coming,” Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon said. “But we choked it. Boys got hemmed in, we got gassed and they made a nice play. Two straight years Game 7 losses, one-goal games, it’s tough. We got to find a way to break through. There are no moral victories here, we came here to win and we didn’t.”
Dallas, trailing 2-1 and 3-2, was able to claw back multiple times with its strong power play. After being held to one opportunity in Game 6, the Stars had just two on Friday but capitalized on both, with forward Alexander Radulov scoring twice. A third Stars goal was scored on a delayed penalty against the Avalanche with a 6-on-5 attack.
The Stars dominated Colorado in special-teams play the entire series. Along with a dominant power play that went 9-for-23, Dallas held the Avs to just four power-play goals on 32 chances.
“It’s not dangerous enough in a lot of areas,” Bednar said of the Avs power play. “On the penalty kill side, in this series, it just wasn’t good. Dallas was really good on the power play. They made it difficult at the net-front and the reality of it is we didn’t block enough shots. And then they got to the puck with numbers and scored a lot of rebound goals. So it hurt us.”
Colorado led 2-1 after the first period, where Avs goalie Michael Hutchinson and Khudobin both were fighting the puck and giving up rebounds. The Stars goaltender tightened up from then on, stopping 27-of-29 Avalanche sots the rest of the way. Hutchinson surrendered four goals on 20 shots in the final two periods and overtime.
Kiviranta’s early second-period goal tied it 2-2. But Colorado scored on the power play 2:39 later to regain the lead. Nazem Kadri’s tally, his sixth with the man-advantage, tied an Avalanche record for power-play goals in a playoff year and was the Avalanche’s first while a man up in 13 tries.
But the lead once again was erased in the third period. After the Avs failed to capitalize on the power play and go up by two goals, Radulov drew a penalty and then scored to make it 3-3.
Colorado was without captain Gabe Landeskog, who was out with an apparent leg injury after teammate Cale Makar’s skate blade sliced him right above his right knee in the second period of Game 6. Landeskog joined an injured list that included top-two goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, forwards Joonas Donskoi and Matt Calvert and defensemen Erik Johnson and Conor Timmins.
“I don’t like to sit here and blame injuries, but they never help,” Bednar said. “You’re almost expected in the playoffs to lose a guy or two here or there but I guess as it turns out for us, we lost both goalies, Erik Johnson early. And then we get Timmins in there and he does a nice job for us. And then Landeskog. And we had Donskoi and Calvert as well. It’s a lot to overcome.”