Joel Kiviranta said playing in his first NHL Game 7 was “just a normal hockey game for me.” The Dallas Stars forward had anything but a normal performance.

Joel Kiviranta said playing in his first NHL Game 7 was “just a normal hockey game for me.” The Dallas Stars forward had anything but a normal performance.Kiviranta scored 7:24 into overtime to complete his first NHL hat trick and give the Stars a 5-4 win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday.
The Stars advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2008. They’ll play the Vegas Golden Knights or Vancouver Canucks, who played Game 7 in Edmonton, the hub city for the West, on Friday (NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN).
The 24-year-old was playing his third NHL postseason game, taking the place of forward Andrew Cogliano, who finished Game 6 but was unfit to play Game 7. On his television postgame interview, Kiviranta said, “I hope I get more games here.”
Stars coach Rick Bowness said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“Well, I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll get in our lineup the next game,” Bowness said with a laugh. “I’ll talk to him tonight, let him know, ‘Yeah, you’re playing next game.’ I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve got that figured out.”
[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Stars series coverage]
Kiviranta is the first rookie to score a Game 7 hat trick; he is the seventh NHL player to do it, the first since Wayne Gretzky for the Los Angeles Kings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 Campbell Conference Finals.
On the series-winning goal, Kiviranta took a pass from defenseman Andrej Sekera from behind the net.
“It’s an unforgettable moment,” Kiviranta said. “I have a couple [of hat tricks] in Finland, from a couple of years ago. Of course, it feels very special when you score it here in the playoffs in a Game 7. It’s the biggest moment.”
Kiviranta’s first NHL playoff goal tied it 2-2 at 3:06 of the second period. His second goal tied it 4-4, 10 seconds after Vladislav Namestnikov gave the Avalanche a 4-3 lead.
Stars captain Jamie Benn called Kiviranta’s performance “spectacular.”
“Those are the things you dream about when you’re a kid, when you’re playing in the driveway and whatnot, and that just became a reality for him,” Benn said. “We know how good he is, he prepared well obviously today, and it paid off.”
Kiviranta had one assist in his two previous postseason games and scored once in 11 regular-season games with the Stars.
“Whenever we played him, we always had a ton of confidence in him,” Bowness said. “There was a game in Colorado, I remember (on Jan. 14) and we brought him up. I remember Joe Pavelski tapping me and saying, ‘Give me Joel.’ So, the players have a tremendous amount of confidence in ‘Kivi.’ He’s not undaunted by anything out there, not intimidated by one thing. Is it nice to see him get rewarded with goals? Yes. Are we surprised at that? Yes. Did we expect that effort? Yeah, that’s what we saw from him earlier in the year.”
Video: Kiviranta’s OT winning hat trick propels Stars to WCF
Kiviranta scored 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists) in 38 games for Jokerit Jr. in Finland in 2013-14 but was not selected in the 2014 NHL Draft, despite being No. 82 in NHL Central Scouting’s list of International skaters. He played the next five seasons for Sport of the Finnish Elite League and scored 114 points (60 goals, 54 assists) in 260 games.
Kiviranta had three points (two goals, one assist) to help Finland win the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The Stars signed him to a two-year, entry-level contract five days later, on May 31.
“I can’t describe my feelings,” Kiviranta said. “I couldn’t imagine this even in my wildest dreams. You know, to play in Game 7, score a hat trick and the winning goal.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report