May 16, 2023 -DALLAS (AP) — Wyatt Johnston is no longer a teenager, not that he’s played like one at all during his rookie season with a Dallas Stars team that is headed to the Western Conference final.
A day after his 20th birthday, Johnston scored a crucial goal for the Stars off a hard ricochet in their 2-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken in Game 7 in the second-round series Monday night.
“It’s a world-class play by one of the youngest players in the league,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s been fantastic all year. He’s a big part of our group. It feels like the deeper we get, the more we rely on him, the more responsibility he wants.”
Roope Hintz also scored for the Stars and 24-year-old goalie Jake Oettinger had 22 saves while again bouncing back after a loss.
Dallas moves on to play first-year Stars coach DeBoer’s former team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Game 1 of the West final is Friday night in Las Vegas.
DeBoer improved to 7-0 in Game 7s, this being the fourth different team he led to a win in the finale of a best-of-seven series that went the distance. Darryl Sutter and Scott Bowman are the only other coaches to do that.
It was the fourth time in five seasons the Stars got a Game 7 — the others were all away from home. They hadn’t won a Game 7 at home since 2000, when they made the Stanley Cup Final for the season in a row, a year after their only title.
In the only other Game 7 they hosted at American Airlines Center, the Stars lost 6-1 to St. Louis in a second-round series in 2016.
Johnston made it 2-0 with 7:12 left, when he gathered a puck that ricocheted off the back boards to the left of the Seattle net. The kid who has played in every game this season, and is living with veteran Joe Pavelksi’s family, then sent a shot that went off the shoulder and mask of goalie Phillip Grubauer before going into the net.
Grubauer stopped 26 shots, two weeks after his 33 saves when Seattle won at Colorado 2-1 in another Game 7 to knock out last year’s Stanley Cup champion.