After a cold streak that stretched for nearly a month, Jakub Vrana scored the game-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in a game that head coach Peter Laviolette hopes will ignite the Czech winger.
Heading into Friday's game, Vrana had not scored in 13 games. His last goal came on March 9. At the beginning of April, Vrana sat for two games as a healthy scratch, as Laviolette said he was looking for a "higher-level of play" from him.
Vrana picked a good time to get back on the scoresheet as his third-period tally on Friday proved to be the game-winner.
With Washington leading by one in the third, strong forecheck work by T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller forced a turnover which Eller handed off to Justin Schultz. Schultz cut down the middle, then flicked the puck over to Vrana for the one-timer.
"I was just going to shoot it, but V did a great job of yelling for the puck and I put it in his wheelhouse," Schultz said. "He’s got a great one-timer, so any time you can give it to him in that area you’ve got a pretty good chance of it going in.”
“He’s got a really good shot, an unbelievable shot," Laviolette said. "It’s quick. It’s usually on point and it was nice to see him deliver that."
Getting Vrana producing again is absolutely critical to the team's success. Vrana's goal was his 11th of the season, all of which came at 5-on-5. Despite his lengthy drought, Vrana still ranks second on the team in 5-on-5 goals behind only Alex Ovechkin who has 15, reflecting just how important a piece Vrana is to Washington's offense.
The Caps know when the playoffs come that they can rely on players like Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to produce, but it's not enough. They have to get steady production all throughout their lineup to go deep in the playoffs and Vrana is one of the top offensive players on the team. He has to be producing for this team to have success so a night like Friday was a step in the right direction.
Now he just has to build on it.
Said Laviolette, "Hopefully, you take a goal like that and build some confidence off it and have it moving in the right direction as well.”