For 19 Capitals, Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Islanders is a game they’d like to forever purge from their memory.
For one Jakub Vrana, it was an eventful night he’ll never forget.
Vrana, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, made his NHL debut, got pranked by his teammates during warmups, nearly scored on his first shift and finished with four shots on goal—more than all but three teammates.
Vrana said after the game that he was surprised by the speed of the NHL game, but coming just a few inches away from scoring on his first shift helped settle his nerves.
“It was a new experience and I had a great feeling out there,” he said. “I had a few shots, they just miss. It kind of hurts to end up the game [with a loss] like this.”
On his early scoring chance, Vrana went to the net, caught a pass and, in one fluid motion, spun and whipped a backhander hard on net. The shot, which ended up going through Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, forced goalie Jaroslav Halak to make a good stick save.
“Everything happened so quick,” Vrana said of the opportunity. “If I could take it back, I would probably shoot [the puck] up.”
He added: “Obviously that first shift helped a lot. Then I just kinda cooled down and tried to play my game.”
Despite skating on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, Vrana ended up with a team-low 10:10 of ice time. One reason for the low total is all of the special teams play in the game; recalled on Wednesday, Vrana doesn’t have a role on the penalty kill or power play. Yet, anyway.
Vrana, however, still managed to leave a positive impression on Coach Barry Trotz, who said earlier in the day that he’s looking to add speed and offense to a lineup that now has 12 goals in the past six games. It was just one night, of course, but Vrana’s straight line speed and hustle stood out. His four shots, meantime, underscored his ability to generate scoring chances.
“I thought he was fine,” Trotz said. “He got the first shot of the game. He had a couple of good wall plays and he’s a really good skater.”
Back to Vrana’s scoring chance just 1:16 into the game. That was actually the second most memorable part of the Czech winger’s night. The part he’ll never forget came during warmups when his teammates picked him to be the first player to come through the tunnel and skate onto the ice. One issue: no one followed him. So for several seconds, Vrana was the only player on the ice.
“I kinda had a feeling,” Vrana said. “It’s obviously a moment I never forget, right? It’s funny.”