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Stanley Cup Final

Vrana producing for Capitals against Golden Knights in Cup Final

Rookie forward has improved game after benching early in playoffs

by Brian McNally / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Jakub Vrana looked nervous and overwhelmed when he played in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game April 12.

The 22-year-old Washington Capitals rookie forward had two early turnovers against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round, and after getting 6:58 of ice time, was a healthy scratch for Game 2. He wasn't sure if or when he'd get another chance.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Vrana returned to the lineup in Game 3 and hasn't missed a game since. He's now a staple on the second line at left wing and has been productive throughout the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

The best-of-7-series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is at Washington on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"Going into the playoffs, I'll be quite honest on this, [Vrana] was one of the guys I was probably a little bit more worried about in terms of his game and the big stage and all that," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "He had a little setback early in the Columbus series where that first game he had the saucer eyes and everything was happening real quick for him, and then he just settled in and he's been really, really good."

Vrana had an assist in Game 1 against the Golden Knights on Nicklas Backstrom's goal at 15:23 of the first period which game the Capitals a 2-1 lead. He didn't have a point in Game 2, but had two quality scoring chances, including hitting the post during a 2-on-1 at 18:55 of the second period and a wraparound attempt at 11:22 of the third stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Backstrom strikes on the backhand

"I had to keep my confidence on a high level," Vrana said. "Practice hard, practice extra, focus on the things I control. Whatever chance I got I tried to have some fun and make sure I did things right and helped the team."

Vrana has five shots on goal in the series, the same number as Alex Ovechkin, one behind Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Oshie for the team lead.

Selected by Washington in the first round (No. 13) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Vrana had 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 73 games during the regular season.

He has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 20 playoff games and scored the winning goal with 4:38 remaining in a 6-3 win in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. He had three points including an assist on the game-tying goal earlier in the third period. 

Promoted to the top line at right wing with Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov in that game, Vrana has spent time on each of the top three lines in the playoffs. A finger injury to Andre Burakovsky in Game 2 against Columbus gave Vrana an opening to play in Game 3.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Vrana slams home go-ahead tally

"I feel kind of the same," Vrana said. "It's a big stage, it's a Stanley Cup Final. I know that. I know it's a responsibility. I try not to think about other things. But it's still hockey and I want to go out there and have some fun and not let down any of our fans or my teammates." 

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