Stars coach to face team that fired him after Game 7 win vs. Kraken

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The second-year Seattle Kraken were playing the same strong defensive game that allowed them to upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 in the first round.

But the Dallas Stars found a way around the shot-blocking machine on Monday night: Get a breakaway.

Stars forward Roope Hintz swooped in, stole a puck from Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and broke in on goaltender Philipp Grubauer, beating him with a 20-foot wrist shot at 15:59 of the second period. That broke a scoreless tie and the Stars went on to win 2-1 in Game 7 and advance to the Western Conference final.

They’ll face the Vegas Golden Knights, the team that fired Stars coach Peter DeBoer in the offseason.

‘There’s a lot to unpack there,’ DeBoer said. ‘I think we’ll just enjoy this and talk about that as we go forward.’

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Wyatt Johnston broke in alone on Grubauer in the third period to make it 2-0 Dallas. The rookie, who turned 20 on Sunday, picked up his second consecutive series-clinching goal and became the youngest player in NHL history to get a game-winning goal in a Game 7.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger, who was pulled in Game 6, made 22 saves to improve to 5-0 after a loss this postseason. He allowed only Oliver Bjorkstrand’s goal with 18 seconds left.

What’s next for the Stars?

They head to the conference final for the first time the 2020 bubble, when they lost in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s a reunion for DeBoer, who improved to 7-0 in Game 7s on Monday. He had taken Vegas to the conference finals in 2020 and 2021 but was fired after missing the playoffs last season. He gets a second chance to knock the Golden Knights out of the playoffs after doing it in 2019 when he was coaching the San Jose Sharks. The Stars are the fourth team he has taken to the conference final (also the New Jersey Devils).

The Stars can throw a lot of offense at the top-seeded Golden Knights. Hintz is the top remaining playoff scorer with 19 points. Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski (eight goals in the second round), trade deadline acquisition Max Domi and captain Jamie Benn also have double-digit points. Tyler Seguin, Evgenii Dadonov and big-minutes defenseman Miro Heiskanen are close with nine points. Every Stars skater has at least one point.

The Golden Knights, led by Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, average 3.73 goals per game, compared to the Stars’ 3.62, but Dallas has a decided edge in special teams.

What’s next for the Kraken?

The second-year franchise should remain contenders after a 40-point improvement from their inaugural season. There aren’t a lot of contracts to negotiate. Ryan Donato, who scored the franchise’s first goal, is an unrestricted free agent. So are backup goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Carson Soucy. Restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn will be due a big raise from this season’s $4 million salary after finishing second on the team in scoring with 64 points.

The Kraken managed to knock off the Avalanche despite missing Jared McCann and Andre Burakovsky. Their balanced scoring makes them a threat.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY