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.”
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.”
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