NHL Bubble Wrap: Stars, Golden Knights survive Game 7 battles

NHL Bubble Wrap: Stars, Golden Knights survive Game 7 battles Kiviranta
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  • After plenty of twists and turns, the Stars beat the Avalanche in overtime of Game 7.
  • Meanwhile, the Golden Knights finally broke through just enough against the Canucks in their Game 7. Barely.
  • The Stars and Golden Knights will face off in Game 1 of the 2020 Western Conference Final (Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET – NBC).

Scores for Game 7 of Stars – Avalanche, Canucks – Golden Knights

Game 7: Stars 5, Avalanche 4 [OT] (DAL wins series 4-3)

Hockey world: meet Joel Kiviranta. The little-known Stars forward completed a Game 7 hat trick with an overtime, series-clinching goal. Kiviranta capped a true back-and-forth contest, one that really fit the frenetic feeling of this Second Round series overall. Mere minutes in, the Stars went up 1-0, only for the Avalanche to quickly tie Game 7. Late in regulation, the Avalanche managed a 4-3 lead, only for Kiviranta to erase that in mere seconds. Shockingly, that goal — Kiviranta’s second — wasn’t his last big one in Game 7.

This was a truly wild one, and capped quite the back-and-forth series.

Game 7: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (VGK wins series 4-3)

For two straight games, the Canucks avoided elimination by leaning heavily on Thatcher Demko, and occasionally counter-punching Vegas. As much as that strategy felt more and more like playing with fire as Vancouver relied on Demko more and more, it almost worked again in Game 7. Despite putting a ton of pressure on Demko for much of the contest, the Golden Knights couldn’t score until a power-play goal almost 14 minutes into the third period. Even then, they scored based on some funky bounces. That 3-0 score is misleading, as the final two goals were empty-netters.

Overall, this was a heck of an effort from the underdog Canucks.

That said, the Canucks squandered many opportunities. Most prominently, they barely mustered a shot on goal after receiving a five-minute major power play after Ryan Reaves was ejected for a hit on Tyler Motte. Considering that some Game 7s prompt officials to lock away their whistles, it has to burn the Canucks to go 0-for-4, especially since Vegas won with a PPG (1-for-3).

When, how to watch Game 1 of Dallas Stars vs. Golden Knights

2020 Western Conference Final Game 1: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights – Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars from Friday’s NHL Game 7 action

1. Joel Kiviranta, Dallas Stars

What better way to introduce yourself to the larger hockey world than to score a Game 7 hat trick, with the overtime-winner representing the third tally? Kiviranta pulled that off in a true must-win situation, generating that hat trick on five shots on goal. The undrafted 24-year-old also managed a +2 rating, and four hits in 14:51 TOI.

This actually extends a point streak of sorts for Kiviranta. He generated an assist and a +4 rating when the Stars eliminated the Flames. Prediction: this time around, he won’t have to wait in between different elimination games to suit up for the Stars again.

2. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

No, Demko didn’t win; his Canucks are headed home after a Game 7 loss. But Vancouver depended entirely on Demko during their last three games, and he merely swiped them from the jaws of a 3-1 series deficit. Game 6 was probably Demko’s masterpiece since he shut the Golden Knights out, yet Demko was fantastic in Game 7.

Whether you chalk it up more to the Canucks running out of gas or merely going passive, it sure seemed like Vancouver was leaning on Demko in a huge way. He was very close to stealing Game 7, and only allowed a single goal. That ended up being enough for Vegas to win, but few will shake the awe at how outstanding Demko was. Overall, he stopped 33 out of 34 SOG in Game 7.

3. Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars

What an up-and-down Game 7 for Radulov. Before it started, he caught his own goalie Anton Khudobin (40 saves) with a shot up high. Then Radulov eased some of the tension by scoring the 1-0 goal on the power play. Fast forward to the third period, when Radulov took a potentially backbreaking penalty while Dallas was down. The Stars killed it, though, and then Radulov scored another power-play goal. Big-time stuff by Radulov.

John Klingberg (two assists, big minutes) and Vladislav Namestnikov (two goals in a losing effort) rank among other players who deserve consideration.

Highlights of Game 7 of Stars – Avalanche, Canucks – Golden Knights

Soak in the twist-filled chaos of that Stars – Avs tilt:

On the other end of the scoring spectrum — but also close and tense — was Game 7 between the Golden Knights and Canucks:

How to watch NHL Game 7 of Flyers – Islanders on Saturday

NHL Game 7: Flyers vs. Islanders (Series tied 3-3) – 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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