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Abdelkader shines on big Game 7 stage

Forward's short-handed play of the game gave Wings lift

Monday, 05.13.2013 / 2:53 AM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Abdelkader shines on big Game 7 stage

Justin Abdelkader's short-handed goal gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead, one that they never relinquished in Game 7 at Honda Center. (Photo by Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – For a guy who couldn’t buy a goal two months ago, Justin Abdelkader made scoring look easy on hockey's biggest stage Sunday night.

His first-period heroics against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals were text book. A perfect penalty-kill play transitioned into a breakaway topped off with a five-hole goal.

Abdelkader’s short-handed goal was the footing for the Red Wings’ 3-2 win that catapulted them into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-3 series win over the Ducks at Honda Center.

“From start to finish it was a great individual play,” said Kyle Quincey, who saw the play develop from his sit in the penalty box. “He was standing still pretty much (and) to go to full-speed by the red line is just a great show of athleticism. Finishing it off like he did was unbelievable. That was the game right there.”

With Quincey serving a minor penalty for cross-checking and the score tied at 1-1, the Ducks went on the power play looking to take a lead. But those plans were quickly squashed when Abdelkader anticipated a pass at the Wings’ blue line and made a mad dash through two zones before sliding a shot between Jonas Hiller’s legs.

The Wings’ penalty-killers, led by Pavel Datsyuk, kept the Ducks to the outside during their man-advantage. But as Francois Beauchemin sent a cross-ice pass along the blue line to his defensive partner Sheldon Souray, Abdelkader lowered the shaft of his stick in the puck’s path. His foresight led to his first career short-handed goal that put the Red Wings 2-1 at 16:37.

“Pavel was putting pressure on him and I knew he wanted to go D-to-D,” Abdelkader said. “I just kind of stayed up high there. Got my stick on it and was trying to get off to the races there.”

From there Abdelkader had time to think about his shot.

“I was just trying to make a good play and get a good shot off whether it was a shot or a deke,” he said. “Once I got in free there I knew that I could make a good play. I was going to shoot it at first, but decided to deke and the five-hole opened up.”

Abdelkader, who served a two-game suspension for his illegal hit to the head of Toni Lydman in Game 3, was also a physical factor in the series, leading the Red Wings with 18 hits despite playing in only five games.

The former Michigan State star went nearly a full calendar year – covering 41 games total – without a goal. When he final did score this season, it was an empty-net gift in early March. Nine days later he scored two crazy goals by re-directing Datsyuk shots with his foot on one, and his chest on the other.

Abdelkader has 12 goals – regular season and playoffs combined – and five have come at Honda Center this season. He's been playing on Wings’ top line for a while, but now he’s scoring like a top-liner, and potting Game 7 breakaways. That’s crazy.

“It was nice to see him score that one,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who scored the game’s first goal. “He had a few of those chances before. He has a lot of speed and I think it helped that you’re playing against a goalie for six games and you’re seeing what he does and kind of moves he has. He made a nice back-and-forth move to get it through the legs, so it was nice to see.”

The Red Wings are now 14-9 all-time in seventh and deciding games in Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s the first time in 49-years that they won a Game 7 on the road after trailing the series three games to two. The last time was 1964 when they won two straight over the Chicago Blackhawks to advance to the Cup finals.

Now it’s off to the Windy City for the Red Wings, who will face the top-seeded Blackhawks in Game 1 of the conference semifinals on Wednesday in Chicago. It will be the 16th time that they two Original Six clubs have faced in the playoffs. Detroit has won the last two meetings advancing past the Blackhawks en route to the Stanley Cup finals in 1995 and 2009.

Before the Easter Sunday massacre when the Blackawks blitzed the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the two teams had played nine straight one-goal games.

“Chicago touched us 7-1 once time, other than that we had overtime games with them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We're excited. Chicago's a great city, they got great players. They led the West. We got a lot of reasons to be excited about playing them. They got nice restaurants. We'll have a good time. They got five D that are flat out great skaters. They got captain who's a real good human being and a great leader and they got lots of skill and good depth. They're well-organized. The national anthem is fun. Lots of things to like about Chicago.”

MOVING UP: Zetterberg’s first-period tally was playoff goal No. 54 of his career, tying former captain Nicklas Lidstrom on the franchise’s all-time list. Only Steve Yzerman (70) and Gordie Howe (67) scored more in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The captain added an assist on Valtteri Filppula’s second-period goal that put the Red Wings up by two scores. Zetterberg finished with a series-high eight points, which included three goals.

FIL’S IN: Filppula gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead in the second when he scored on a nifty back-hand shot from the right circle. The game-winning goal was his first in the playoff since his deciding tally in the Wings’ Game 6 victory against San Jose in 2011.

Zetterberg set-up the play Sunday, digging the puck out of the corner to Filppula, who flipped a shot that went between Beauchemin’s legs. It appeared that Hiller never saw the puck either as he was screened by his own defenseman.

The goal also stood as relief for Filppula, who had a costly mistake led to a very big Ducks goal in Game 6.

“You make mistakes sometimes when you play, you hope you wouldn't make those kind of mistakes but you try to forget them quick,” Filppula said Sunday. “We won that game and obviously you want to do your best all the time to help the team and I’m glad I could do a little better today in that department.”

THREE STARS: 3, Cam Fowler, ANA (1 assist); 2, Emerson Etem, ANA (1 goal); 1, Henrik Zetterberg, DET (1 goal, 1 assist).

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80