The Capitals' Wednesday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning had everything a hockey fan loves; goals, high stakes and fighting.
In the second period of the Caps' 5-4 OT loss, Michal Kempny was knocked out of the game with a lower-body injury after a back-and-forth scuffle with Cedric Paquette. Forward Jakub Vrana decided to stick up for his teammate and dropped the gloves with the Lightning's Yanni Gourde in what was the 23-year-old's first NHL fight.
"That's our team. That's something that is acknowledged whenever a player does it," head coach Todd Reirden said on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies Thursday. "It's not an easy thing to do. It obviously takes courage and pride and major, major credit is sent his way between periods and after the game for doing something like that. "
Vrana, who made the Caps' roster back in 2017 and cemented himself within their lineup during their Stanley Cup championship run with two game-winning goals, has officially made it clear he's got his teammate's backs.
"Anytime a player steps outside of their box and grows, especially in a situation like that, he's not a guy that gets into fights...he stood up for the Washington Capitals," Reirden added. "And I can not put enough praise on something like that because that's at what the end of the day, that's commitment to your teammate, that's togetherness, that's team, and especially a guy like Gourde [who] has fought Tom [Wilson]."
Vrana was sent to the penalty box after fighting who the NBC Sports Network commentators described as a "pocket Hercules" in Gourde. While Reirden would have liked the speedster to have been on the ice for the Caps in the following moments, he couldn't help but praise the strides he took as both a player and teammate.
"And like I said, Vrana's been a phenomenal player for us this year, and you don't necessary like the tradeoff of not having Jakub on that situation, but that was something that he did and I'm really proud of him for that," he said. "Not just for what happens in a hockey game, but for him as a young player."
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