Of course it took Game 7 overtime to settle a future classic between the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.
It was there, 7:24 in, that the Stars’ Joel Kiviranta finished a hat trick and ended Colorado’s season.
“Tonight we had it in our hands,” forward Nathan MacKinnon said.
Third-stringer Michael Hutchinson made 30 saves in a 5-4 loss Friday in Edmonton. The unlikely hero was in net as the Avalanche charged back from a 3-1 series deficit but couldn’t see them the whole way to the Western Conference final.
The Avalanche haven’t advanced past the second round since 2002. From training camp, this was promoted as the year the drought ended.
The lineup was deep and skilled, but it couldn’t withstand a barrage of injuries to key players. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was cut by a skate in Game 6, joined the list Friday.
“We wanted to win it this year,” Mikko Rantanen said.
“It’s too late now, but proud of the guys.”
Colorado has never won a series in which it trailed 3-1.
Neither team led Game 7 by more than a goal. The final time they went through this song and dance, it was a familiar refrain but sped up. Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov got his second of the game with 3:40 left in regulation. On the next shift, Kiviranta got his own second goal and knotted the score at 4.
In overtime, Andrej Sekera waited behind the net with the puck, then hit Kiviranta in the slot for a one-timer.
And that was that. Dallas was moving on.
“We felt like we were outplaying them in overtime and it was coming. We felt good,” MacKinnon said. “Just got hemmed in, boys got gassed and they made a nice play. It’s tough.
“We just couldn’t keep the puck out of our net this series. We gave them really good looks. We definitely scored enough goals to win, we’ve just got to do a better job in front of our goalies. Everybody.”
MacKinnon set a franchise record with a point in every postseason game (9 goals, 16 assists, 14 games) except the last one.
Hutchinson tried to smother a bouncing puck but Alexander Radulov got there first and put Dallas up 1-0 for the second straight game. One minute, nine seconds later, Ian Cole’s shot through traffic was deflected in by Namestnikov.
Andre Burakovsky, with a noted fondness for scoring in elimination games, came tearing through the Stars with a turnover. He ripped a shot over Anton Khudobin’s shoulder to make it 2-1.
Kiviranta tied the game just over three minutes into the second period. Nazem Kadri shoveled it in at the back door to restore the lead and give the Avalanche power play its first goal in 13 tries. Radulov later tied it again at 3.
Kadri almost got another on the power play but hit a shrill note off the post. Khudobin (40 saves) later gloved Kadri’s rebound bid out of the air.
Even though the excuses are plentiful, the Avalanche are done in the bubble. They finished at the same spot in 2019, just shy of the Stanley Cup playoffs halfway point.
“Two straight years, Game 7 losses, one-goal games,” MacKinnon said. “It’s tough. We’ve gotta find a way to break through.
“There’s no moral victories here. We came here to win and we didn’t get the job done.”