By Jeff O'Brien

Jakub Vrana scored four goals in a game for the first time to help the Detroit Red Wings rout the Dallas Stars 7-3 Thursday night and match their total number of wins from last season.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 22: Jakub Vrana #15 of the Detroit Red Wings scores a goal on Jake Oettinger #29 of the Dallas Stars during the third period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on April 22, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Dallas 7-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Detroit picked up its 17th victory in its 49th game, a year after winning 17 of 71 games in the previous pandemic-shortened season.

“We aren’t in the playoffs, but we’re trying to play the best we can every night and try to build something,” Vrana said.

The defending Western Conference champion Stars are vying with Nashville and Chicago to earn the Central Division’s fourth and final postseason berth. The teams will play a fourth straight game on Saturday night.

Vrana, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Washington for Anthony Mantha, scored his second goal in the second period. He added two more in the third period.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 22: Evgeny Svechnikov #37 of the Detroit Red Wings skates with the puck to the side of Radek Faksa #12 and Jake Oettinger #29 of the Dallas Stars during the third period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on April 22, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

“Since Day 1, everyone was really helpful,” said Vrana, who has 16 goals this season. “There’s a new system and new teammates and you’re just trying to figure it out. It has clicked so far, but there’s still a lot we can do better.”

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net, giving Detroit a season-high seven goals. Luke Glendening and Richard Panik also scored. Thomas Greiss finished with 43 saves.

Radek Faksa and Joe Pavelski scored in the second period and Denis Gurianov had a goal with 6:31 left in the third, pulling Dallas within two goals each time.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 22: Denis Gurianov #34 of the Dallas Stars pounds gloves with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on April 22, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Dallas 7-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Anton Khudobin gave up three goals on nine shots in the first and was benched by the Stars.

“It just seems to not be his night,” coach Rick Bowness said.

Jake Oettinger didn’t fare much better, allowing three goals on 13 shots.

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STREAKS STOPPED

Detroit ended its three-game losing streak against a team that had won four games in a row.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 22: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings congratulates teammate Thomas Greiss #29 after an NHL game against the Dallas Stars at Little Caesars Arena on April 22, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Dallas 7-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

“We knew they were going to come hard because we beat them at home,” Stars forward Radek Faksa said. “The game wasn’t bad, but all the mistakes, we have to learn from that for the next game.”

HE SAID IT

“It’s a classic example of beating yourself,” Bowness said. “Poor puck management. We gave them goals.”

THAT’S IRONIC

Mantha was the last Red Wing to score four goals in a game, pulling off the feat on Oct. 6, 2019.

COOL COMPANY

Pavelski scored for the 20th time this season, giving him at least that many goals for the 11th time in his career. Among NHL players drafted in the seventh round or later, five players have had more seasons with 20 goals: Luc Robitaille, Peter Bondra, Doug Gilmour, Theo Fleury and Dave Taylor.

SHOOTERS SHOOT

The Red Wings also acquired Panik, a 2021 first- and a 2022 second-round pick from the Capitals, but the 25-year-old Vrana was the key part of the trade from Detroit’s perspective.

“He’s fast and he can shoot it,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “Those two things are undeniable. Those were goal-scorer’s goals. He can change games with that kind of finishing.”

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