Joe Veleno showed what he can do with the puck and Jakub Vrana continued Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman looks smart.
Vrana set Veleno up for his first NHL goal on Friday at Nationwide Arena, then scored one of his own when the Wings played the first of two consecutive games against the Columbus Blue Jackets to end their season.
The win puts the wings (19-27-9) within reach of 20 wins. Last season they ended with 17 wins in 71 games.
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The Wings were 2-0 down when Veleno scored in the second half at 1:50 p.m. Gavin Bayreuther scored in less than two minutes for the Blue Jackets when his shot hit Michael Rasmussen and shot past goalkeeper Thomas Greiss. Nathan Gerbe pocketed a backhand in a runaway at 7:48 a.m. in the second half.
Danny DeKeyser scored less than a minute after Veleno. Mathias Brome fired a shot that was deflected in the back of the net at DeKeyser, whose shot fell behind Columbus goalkeeper Matiss Kivlenieks. Vrana then hit on a one-timer at 4:52 p.m.
Since joining the Wings on April 12th and sending Anthony Mantha to Washington, Vrana has had seven goals and two assists in ten games.
Vladislav Namestnikov hit an empty net with 2:02 – and then again with a 48-second lead.
Veleno scores the first goal
Veleno, a 2018 first round pick, scored his first NHL goal on a power play. Vrana had the puck at the top of the right circle, Richard panicked the net, and Sam Gagner near the slot. Vrana wired a pass with Veleno, who stuck the puck under the counter and in his memories. Veleno has performed well since returning from the season in Sweden, demonstrating his strength and skill.
Rasmussen gets a first-class look
Rasmussen, whose strong game was one of the bright spots of the season, centered the top line between wingers Vrana and Filip Zadina. Rasmussen had previously played with Vrana, but with veteran two-way forward Valtteri Filppula on the other wing. This setup gave Rasmussen the opportunity to play between two attacking wingers who, although it’s only been a little over three weeks since Vrana was acquired, have shown good chemistry.
Givani Smith made his 16th game of the season and his first since returning to Grand Rapids on April 12 after close of trading. Smith started the game in line with his young colleague Veleno and veteran Sam Gagner. Smith (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) should be in the running for a spot on the wings next season as he has done well on occasion and would provide some grit.
Contact Helene St. James at [email protected]. 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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Triumph books. Personalized copies are available via email.