Three or four hats hit the ice. Then Jakub Vrana scored again.
The Detroit Red Wings newcomer kept replying Thursday when the Dallas Stars threatened to make the game at Little Caesars Arena close. Vrana completed a hat trick in the third period and then added a fourth goal, leading the Wings to a 7-3 victory in the third straight game this week against the Stars.
At 17-25-7, the Wings have matched the number of victories they had last season in 71 games with seven games remaining this season.
Vrana completed a hat trick when he scored on a breakaway midway through the third period. Richard Panik, also acquired April 12 in the Anthony Mantha trade, recorded his first goal in a Wings uniform.
The last time a Wings player had a four-goal game was Oct. 6, 2019 when Mantha did it against the Stars.
Thomas Greiss set the tone with a couple saves early in the first period, and then his teammates took control. Vrana scored at the midpoint. Five minutes later, Marc Staal aimed a shot at the net. Luke Glendening was battling near the bottom of the left circle and deflected the puck with his stick while Darren Helm screened Anton Khudobin.
The Wings went up 3-0 when Panik scored with 10.3 seconds left in the period. Jake Oettinger was in goal when Vrana made it 4-1 four minutes after Radek Faksa converted on a power play. Joe Pavelski also scored in the second period.
Vrana’s third goal in four games put the Wings up 5-2 in the third period. Denis Gurianov converted on Dallas’ fourth power play, but Vrana stifled that momentum when he backhanded the puck into an open net at 15:48. Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 1:13 left to play to give the Wings their most productive outing of the season.
The teams meet Saturday for the last game of the season series.
New looks up front
With Dylan Larkin sidelined by an upper-body injury suffered Tuesday, Michael Rasmussen was moved up to center the first line between Vrana and Filip Zadina. Robby Fabbri missed a 10th consecutive game with an upper-body injury, so the Wings went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again. Evgeny Svechnikov returned after being a healthy scratch Tuesday, playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Sam Gagner. Vladislav Namestnikov paired up with Panik, and Glendening was with Helm and Adam Erne as usual.
Hat trick for Vrana
Filip Zadina raced up the ice on the left side, and Vrana was coming up the right flank. Zadina passed the puck to Vrana, who fired a shot even as he was off balance, falling to the ice as the puck slid behind Anton Khudobinat 9:50 of the first period. Vrana scored again at 6:50 of the second period, when he tipped Danny DeKeyser’s shot. Vrana celebrated his third goal at 10:09 of the third period, and added a fourth for good measure at 15:48. Zadina and DeKeyser assisted on Vrana’s fourth goal.
Teams must leave at least one defenseman unprotected in the Seattle expansion draft who is under contract in 2021-22 and who played either at least 40 games this season or at least 70 games over this season and last. That’s why it was huge that DeKeyser hit 40 when he suited up Thursday, because now he meets both requirements. It’s a credit to DeKeyser’s inner drive that he’s rebounded as well as he has this season, because for a while it looked like his career would be derailed following back surgery in December 2019.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.