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Jakub Vrana's first goal proves to be the game-winner for Caps

Jakub Vrana's first goal proves to be the game-winner for Caps

Five games and 10 shots into his NHL career, Jakub Vrana experienced a moment he’ll never forget.

The Capitals rookie finished a perfectly-placed setup pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov on the power play Friday night in Buffalo, where his first goal proved to be the game winner in Washington’s 4-1 triumph.

“It feels good,” Vrana said. “I had a few shots the last few games [but] it didn’t go in. So, that one did [and] I’m going to give huge credit to Kuzy for a great play.”

Kuznetsov, in fact, singlehandedly created the scoring chance by carrying the puck down the wall, squeezing past a defender and then making a strong move along the goal line. Vrana, meantime, made a bee line right to the top of the blue paint and banged in Kuzy’s cross-crease pass.

“That was a lot prettier than mine,” veteran T.J. Oshie said, referring to his first career goal. “Very happy for him. I think everyone on the team has already went up and congratulated him. It’s awesome. It’s a big day for him.”

RELATED: TWO-GOAL SECOND PERIOD FUELS CAPS' WIN IN BUFFALO

Said Coach Barry Trotz: “Kuzy made a great play, went wide. And Jake went to the paint and found that puck. And when he finds that puck in close, he’s pretty good.”

“You’re getting to know what he is,” Trotz added. “He’s more of a pure shooter than a playmaker, which is okay. Do what you do best. [Alex Ovechkin] has made a good living doing that. Jake will do that.”    

Although he had gone his first four games without a point, Vrana said he never lost confidence.

“As long as I got chances, it was going a good way,” he said. “Just hard to finish a little bit. Obviously, I’m happy for this one and [now] just try to keep it going.”

In the middle of his interview session, teammate Tom Wilson sneaked up and hit him in the face with the traditional shaving cream pie.

Vrana never missed a beat.

“Alright,” he said as he wiped the cream from his eyes. “Next question.”

Vrana also praised his teammates for their strong finish to the game. Against Boston on Wednesday, the Caps sat back, blew a 3-0 lead and had to win it in overtime.

On Friday, though, Vrana’s goal gave the visitors all they would need thanks to a much better closing effort.

“I would say last game we had a 3-0 and we kinda let it go for a little bit,” he said. “So, after the game we talk a lot about it [in a closed-door, players-only meeting]. This game, we had a 2-0 lead and we just keep working hard, hold the fort [in the] third period. Obviously, we play a 60 minute game today.”

Indeed, things couldn’t have gone much better for the 20-year-old Czech. He scored, the Caps won and, more important, he probably bought himself some more time in Washington.

“I never dreamed how I would score,” he said, asked if his first goal happened just as he had always imagined. “Just get some shots on the net and hopefully something is going to go in. Like I said, I got to give credit to Kuzy for a great play.”

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ PRAISES CAPS POWER PLAY AFTER WIN AGAINST SABRES

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Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

The Capitals (32-11-5) head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders (28-14-4) in the last game before the bye week. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all the action! Pregame coverage starts at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

Ovechkin is in

By skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin is subject to a one-game suspension. He must serve that suspension in either the last game before the bye week or the first game back. Todd Reirden said following Thursday's game that Ovechkin will play on Saturday meaning he will miss the Jan. 27 game against the Montreal Canadiens. This should come as no surprise considering the Islanders game is a division game and the Montreal game is not.

Here are the lines based on Friday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Ovechkin is red-hot

It is a good thing Ovechkin is playing Saturday because he is red-hot right now. He has five goals in just the past two games and sits one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in goals.

Holtby starts

Ilya Samsonov started the last two games and played well, but with the bye week upcoming, Reirden felt it important to get Braden Holtby back in. He confirmed Friday that Holtby will be the starter.

Holtby has not registered a save percentage above .900 in six straight starts and he sits at .899 for the season. He has still managed a 18-9-4 record for the season, however. Reirden said the last two games for Samsonov allowed Holtby the chance to "reset." HIs last game was on Jan. 11 against the New Jersey Devils.

When last we met

With Holtby in net, he will have a chance to rebound after this last start against the Islanders, a tough 4-3 loss at home on New Year's Eve. He allowed four goals on 22 shots in that game.

It was a very sloppy affair, not what we are used to seeing from the typically buttoned-up Islanders defense and turnovers were a problem for both sides. Semyon Varlamov closed the door in the period, stopping a whopping 17 shots as Washington poured it on looking to tie it.

Here's a recap of the game.

Washington is 1-1-0 against the Islanders this season with the final matchup coming on Feb. 10.

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Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

During the Caps big win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, Alex Ovechkin passed Finnish great Teemu Selanne on the all-time goal list, bringing him to 11th overall. He currently stands at 689 goals and his next target on the list is Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux at 690.

With Ovechkin closing in on yet another goal-scorer, Selanne took to Twitter to say that he believes Ovechkin will be the one to pass Wayne Gretzky's mark of 894 goals.

Selanne isn't the only one who believes the Great Eight can catch up to the Great One. Nicklas Backstrom thinks his captain can do it, Sidney Crosby agrees with that assessment,  and the Great One himself said that Ovi has elevated the way the game has been played with his goal-scoring pursuit.

Ovi's take on it all? That if he's able to complete the feat he'll retire immediately. Ovi needs 205 more goals to reach that mark.

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