'He can change the complexion of the game': Vrana scores four as Red Wings rout Stars, 7-3
Detroit — So, of course, with many of the Red Wings top offensive players missing due to injuries, the Wings explode for seven goals Thursday and win.
And Jakub Vrana got most of them.
The newly acquired Vrana was spectacular with four goals, as the Wings defeated Dallas 7-3, the seven goals a season-high for the Wings.
It's the Wings' first victory over Dallas in the four-game series this week, which concludes Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
This, despite the fact the Stars desperately needed this game in a playoff chase while the Wings are decimated with injuries and trying to escape last place in the Central Division.
But the Wings had Vrana, and that was a big checkmark on their side.
"He is fast and he can shoot it, and those two things are undeniable," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Even tonight, the goals were goal scorer's goals, a lot of them. The way he finished, when you have the ability to finish, it can really alter the game."
Interestingly, the last time a Wings player scored four goals in a game was Anthony Mantha, the player the Wings' traded to Washington for Vrana and Richard Panik (and draft picks), on October 6, 2019 — against the same Dallas Stars.
"The locker room, it was nice, it felt great in there," said Vrana of the celebration after the game. "There are a great group of guys here. We've been missing some big key guys in the lineup and it's great to see the guys coming in, stepping up and playing great games and get the win.
"We're trying to create some momentum."
Vrana has five goals since arriving from Washington and has 16 for the season. Vrana secured the hat trick with a nifty breakaway goal at 10 minutes, 9 seconds of the third period, extending the Wings' lead to 5-2, then made it 6-3 with a rebound goal at 15:48.
"It's been a lot going on here and it's just trying not to think too much and what I can do to help the team as much as I can," Vrana said. "It's new for me and I'm just going out there and doing things I can do best and keep it simple and play hard and make every game count."
Vrana's last two goals were example of his quick-strike ability and the way it can deflate opponents.
"When you have a guy who can score on one shot, he can change the complexion of the game," Blashill said. "They were pushing and he got a breakaway and he scores and now you feel the game is in hand. They push again and he scores, and it's just constant momentum going our way, and going against the other team when you have guys like that."
Luke Glendening, Panik (scoring his first as a Wing) and Sam Gagner (empty net) added the other Wings goals, as the Wings got contributions from players that'll need to come through in these waning games of the season.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss made 43 saves to earn the victory.
"He made a number of good saves and even in the end, he locked it down," Blashill said. "It just seemed as clean a game, he got to pucks and played the puck well, just as clean a game as he's played."
The Wings (17-25-7) ended a three-game winless streak, while Dallas (19-15-12) lost its first regulation game in nine games.
Radek Faksa (power play), Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov (power play) had Stars goals.
The Wings were missing forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Frans Nielsen and Bobby Ryan due to injuries.
But players such as Vrana and Filip Zadina, among others, are players the Wings are hoping can supply much-needed offense in these final seven games. On Thursday, they certainly did.
"He's (Larkin) a great leader of this group, and missing a guy like that in the lineup, there's guys coming into the lineup to be the difference out there," Vrana said. "Every one was doing their job real good and committed to get the win."
Blashill didn't like some of the defensive aspects of the game from his team, but was pleased in many other areas, especially with so many key players out of the lineup.
"It says our group cares a bunch and they compete real hard," Blashill said. "We weren't perfect, but they care a bunch and we have great character in that room. Right to the end of the game, our guys competed real hard."
Vrana gave the Wings a 1-0 lead, converting a slick 2-on-1 play with Zadina. Vrana threaded a shot just over the shoulder of starting goalie Anton Khudobin at 9:50, just moments after Greiss made a key stop on a breakaway by Dallas forward Roope Hintz.
Glendening pushed the lead to 2-0 with his sixth goal, at 15:35. Glendening screened Khudobin, and got his stick on Marc Staal's point shot, getting the puck past Khudobin.
Panik made it 3-0 with just 10 seconds left in the first period, getting his first as a Wing and fourth goal this season. Panik flipped a shot to the net, but the puck eluded Khudobin and got through his legs. Panik, driving to the net, nudged the puck in.
After Faksa (power play) cut the Wings' lead to 3-1, Vrana got his second goal and 14th of the season. Vrana skated into the slot and got his stick on Danny DeKeyser's shot from the high slot, the puck redirecting past goalie Jake Oettinger, who replaced Khudobin to begin the second period.
"There are still things we can be better at, little things out there we can do better of course, but we're happy with tonight's win after the road trip (winless two games)," Vrana said.