Coronavirus is now in its seventh month of bringing the entire world to a halt. COVID-19 has affected millions across the planet. 2020 has been stressful for many as the unpredictability of many factors from the pandemic continues to bog down people’s minds. Sports are viewed by many as the great equalizer. At the very least, it allows people from all walks of life to have a common denominator. Sports, including hockey, were not immune to the fallout of the pandemic.
For Dallas, Texas, people received welcome distraction from July-September. The Dallas Stars made a run to the Stanley Cup Final that treated people in the city to a few moments of happiness. This Cinderella run ended but not before capturing the hearts and hopes of the city. The team created great moments as they battled through each round. Here are some of the best moments of the Stars’ 2020 playoff run and what each meant to fans.
2-2 Not 3-1: Pavelski’s Late Hat Trick Saves Season
The Stars limped into the playoffs by being shutout twice in the first four games. With a last-minute equalizer and shootout win against the Blues, the Stars had a date with the Calgary Flames. After losing the first two out of three games in the series, the Stars were facing a must-win in Game 4 or face a 3-1 hole. Tobias Rieder got the Flames off with a shorthanded goal on a beautiful pass from Derek Ryan. Doubt quickly seeped into the minds of Stars fans as the dread of a 3-1 series deficit was now on the table.
With 2:49 remaining, the Stars looked as though they had tied the game after scoring, but Corey Perry interfered with Cam Talbot, so the goal was waved off. With 12.9 seconds remaining, Joe Pavelski scored a hat trick to tie the game and potentially save the season. This game headed to overtime at 4-4. After many chances from both sides, John Klingberg took a slapshot one-timer from Jamie Benn that deflected in off of Alexander Radulov to win the game and tie the series at 2-2. Fans breathed a sigh of relief whenever the puck went into the net. 3-1 series deficits are mammoths to climb out of. As it turns out, this was only the start of several comeback wins throughout the playoffs.
Joel Kiviranta Becomes Household Name
Perhaps the biggest moment of this playoff run came against the Colorado Avalanche. Game 7 will go down as a franchise-altering game for years to come because this moment meant so much for Stars fans. With his overtime hat trick goal to win the series, Joel Kiviranta accomplished many things.
The Stars made it to their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2008, alleviating the pain of many Round 2, Game 7 losses since that time. He also cemented his legacy as a local sports hero, as the overtime winner sent Stars fans into a frenzy. Fans uploaded their reaction videos to Twitter to relish in their celebration.
Denis the Menace Sends American Airlines Center Into Frenzy
The American Airlines Center started allowing limited numbers of fans to watch games on the jumbotron. Reilly Smith scored 15 seconds into the third period to put the Vegas Golden Knights up 2-0 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. Benn scored the first goal, followed by Kiviranta, to send this one to overtime. Heart rates elevated because with a 3-1 series lead, a Stars goal would send them to the Stanley Cup Final. Zach Whitecloud of the Golden Knights took a delay of game penalty that gave the Stars a powerplay.
Klingberg teed up Denis Gurianov with a one-timer off the faceoff circle. Gurianov’s slapshot blazed past Robin Lehner to win the Clarence Campbell Bowl, and everyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex went berserk. After 20 years, the Stars were finally back in the Stanley Cup Final. Pure elation filled Stars fans because, after so many years of frustration and many months of COVID-19 misery, Dallas finally had a sports team make it to the championship for the first time since 2011. Everyone in the city was now on team Stars.
Old Rival Becomes Last Hero
Lucky jerseys, superstitions, and game-day traditions were on trial throughout the Stanley Cup Final. The Stars won Game 1, but the hopes of being three wins away from the Stanley Cup would stay that way, as they lost three in a row to the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a lobotomizing overtime defeat in Game 4. Like in Game 7 against the Avalanche, the Stars were minutes away from elimination in Game 5 when Pavelski ripped a rebound past Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game 2-2.
Each Lightning scoring opportunity in overtime gave Stars fans heart palpitations. Simply trying to keep the season alive, the Stars only got off one shot on goal in the first overtime. The unlikeliest of words were uttered by fans when Corey Perry became a Stars hero in double overtime. After years of being a hated rival with the Ducks, he scored what turned out to be the final goal of the season as they staved off elimination in Game 5. It was the last victory hurrah, as the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in Game 6, 2-0.
Cinderella Story Comes to an End
The clock struck midnight on the Cinderella Stars but not before giving the city something to cheer for. Coincidentally, these four big moments all came in overtime and on the “away” games. One thing is for sure, the American Airlines Center would have been rocking had they played there with fans. No one will forget what the Stars players did for their fanbase. They left their families for two months to provide us with some sort of entertainment during these troubling times.
They did it for Dallas, and we will always thank them for it. Hopefully, the time will be soon when the Stars get to play at home. The fans will give them a large standing ovation during that first game back, whenever that may be. Until then, the memories of an incredible playoff run will have to suffice.