It was obvious to everyone in the Capitals organization that Jakub Vrana had top-6 skill and speed when he made his debut in 2016 and played 20 games from December to March across two stints with the big club. So when Vrana earned a roster spot coming into the 2017-18 season, expectations were high for the young Czech winger.
Vrana tallied 13 goals and 14 assists over the course of his first full season in the NHL and looked to carry that momentum into the first round series against Columbus. After playing just 6:58 in Game 1, Vrana was a healthy scratch for Game 2 and continued to see limited minutes for the rest of the series as he got used to his first postseason action.
But as the Capitals rallied past the Blue Jackets, Vrana kept making it harder for Barry Trotz to leave him on the bench. Vrana’s first postseason goal in a Game 2 win over Pittsburgh earned him more minutes and in Game 5, Vrana had his first major postseason moment.
Number 9 on our countdown of the Top 20 Goals of the Capitals Stanley Cup run is Jakub Vrana’s Game 5 game-winning goal with 4:38 left to play in the Caps’ eventual 6-3 win over the Penguins.
After Braden Holtby made a stellar save on Brian Dumoulin at one end of the ice, Alex Ovechkin picked up the puck and started charging through center with Vrana on his side. As Ovechkin rounded Riley Sheahan, a center forced to cover defensively for his teammates up ice, Vrana crashed the front of the net and slammed home the pass from Ovechkin to give the Capitals a late 4-3 lead. Capital One Arena was electric, and the Caps used that momentum to add a pair of empty-netters to move one win away from finally moving past the Penguins and into the Eastern Conference Final.
Vrana’s goal capped a 3-point night that earned him a much more significant role in the remainder of the postseason and cemented a place in the hearts of Caps fans as they watched him help Washington lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
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