Abdelkader's timely goal lifts Red Wings
"I basically told Abby in the first period he might not play one shift," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Just be ready."
On just his fifth shift of the night, playing the least of any Red Wing s' player — just 3:11 minutes — Abdelkader, a Muskegon, Mich., native, scored the coffin-nailing goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Ville Leino worked the puck behind the net before Abdelkader threw a shot that hit the side of the cage and took a weird bounce. While Jordan Staal searched the sky for the puck, Abdelkader caught it, threw it to his stick, and beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Red Wings up 3-1.
Less than three-minutes into the third period, Abdelkader had given Detroit a lead they never relinquish.
Not too shabby for a 22-year-old fourth liner who played just two games with the Wings in the regular-season and only eight in the playoffs after Tomas Kopecky was injured in Game 4 against Anaheim in the Western Conference semifinals. It was just his second point of the playoffs after an assist in his debut.
Abdelkader was a standout for Mona Shores High School and then Michigan State, where he scored the “other” biggest goal of his life — a national championship game-winner with 18.9 seconds left against Boston College in 2007.
“That would be a tough one to beat,” Abdelkader said. “But I think this one is right up there.”
He scored 24 goals and 52 points in 72 games with the Wings' AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids this season.
The Wings never flinched after Abdelkader’s tally. Wings goalie Chris Osgood made back-to-back saves on Kris Letang and Crosby on the following shift. Osgood made 31 saves on the night, including a stop on Evgeni Malkin's breakaway early in the second period.
Wings defenseman Brad Stuart opened the scoring 6:22 into the game, and Pittsburgh’s RuslanFedotenko tied the game five-minutes later.
Johan Franzen scored his team-leading 11th goal of the playoffs with 1:13 left in the second period to break the 1-1 tie. Picking up a Brian Rafalski shot behind the net, Franzen deflected a backhander off of a flailing Fleury.