Rookie helps Wings to 2-0 lead over Penguins
Abdelkader scores key insurance goal for second straight night
Stanley Cup finals often produce a surprising hero, but no one could have seen Justin Abdelkader coming.
The Michigan native, 22, scored the clinching goal Sunday night for the second straight game as his defending champion Detroit Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both those goals — the first of the Michigan State graduate's NHL career — came in the third period and each put Detroit up 3-1.
They were also both knuckleballs, though Sunday's was from much farther out than Saturday night's effort from just over the crease.
This time, Abdelkader raced into the Penguins' zone on the right side, only to have the bouncing puck escape to his left. But the left-handed winger chased the disk down and then fired a flutter-ball that went over the left shoulder of goaltender Marc-André Fleury and into the goal.
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Evgeni will play
The National Hockey League took about 30 minutes after Sunday's game to decide it won't suspend Evgeni Malkin for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
Pittsburgh's star forward took an extra penalty for instigating a fight with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg in the dying seconds of the Penguins' 3-1 loss in Game 2.
Because it happened in the final five minutes, the rules say Malkin is out for Tuesday's Game 3, but the NHL's Colin Campbell overturned it right away.
This dust-up began with 19 seconds to go when the Pens' Maxime Talbot stuck his stick right into the middle of the winged wheel on the chest of goaltender Chris Osgood.
After the Wings' keeper played it up by falling over, everyone got involved, led by Zetterberg and Malkin who eventually squared off in a spirited little battle.
Referees Bill McCreary and Marc Joannette decided Malkin had started the brawl with Zetterberg and called the instigator.
"I don't think anything will happen — guys are competing hard and they're frustrated," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Their team is playing hard, they've played us hard, and there's no room."
Valtteri Filppula scored the eventual winner in the second period for Detroit, breaking a 1-1 tie. Jonathan Ericsson had the Wings' other goal.
Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh's only goal in the first, and ended the game taking an instigator penalty in a fight with Henrik Zetterberg.
Game 3 is set for Tuesday in Pittsburgh (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
Rookie makes most of chance
Abdelkader, who played in only four regular season games over two seasons for the Wings, first got into the lineup in Game 5 of the Western semifinal against Anaheim. He's been there ever since and making it tough for coach Mike Babcock to take him out.
"It's awesome just to play in my home state my whole career — it's pretty special," said Abdelkader, who grew up in Muskegon, about 2½ hours north of Detroit, and played for the American League's Grand Rapids Griffins.
"You know, I'm just trying to get the puck on the net and stay with it as much as I can, and I got some lucky bounces," he said. "You put the puck on the net and you never know."
Detroit outshot the Penguins 32-26 on the night (12-3 in the third), though most of the Pittsburgh tries were easily stopped by goaltender Chris Osgood because the visitors weren't getting much pressure at the net.
Fleury under siege
Fleury, on the other hand, was constantly under siege from Wings in and around his crease.
Sidney Crosby, who spent Saturday night wearing Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit as a fashion accessory, found more room on Sunday, firing five shots and setting up three good chances his linemates couldn't finish.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma thought the two games looked quite similar.
"We had stretches where we played good. We got scoring chances and pucks around their net and didn't capitalize when we needed to," he said. "They got timely goals and they got goals that were around our net and they ended up with a victory."
Detroit controlled much of the play early in an opening period that was much less frenetic than in Game 1, but it was Pittsburgh that came to life and took the lead.
Niklas Kronwall took a cross-checking penalty for putting his stick to the back of Maxime Talbot at 16:08.
On the ensuing power play a shot by Malkin found its way into the crowd in front of Osgood. Defenceman Brad Stuart tried to bat the puck back out of danger but instead directed it into his own net to make it 1-0 Penguins at 16:50.
Malkin was awarded the goal, his 13th of the post-season.
A little déjà vu
Detroit tied the game in the second on a play that repeated a story from Game 1 by taking advantage of a tired Pittsburgh defence that had just iced the puck and had to stay on for the next face off.
Saturday it resulted in the second goal for Detroit and Sunday the same thing happened.
Filppula's line held the puck in the Penguins' zone for about a minute before Pittsburgh iced it. This time coach Dan Bylsma didn't use his time out.
Off the face off, a shot from the point by Ericsson sailed past goalie Fleury with Darren Helm standing on his doorstep for a 1-1 tie at 4:21 of the second.
Six minutes later, Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis was hooked on a play and then broke his stick in the battle along the boards.
While he was looking for a penalty call the play continued with Detroit buzzing around.
A shot into the crowd at the net popped out to the left of Fleury, where Filppula corralled the disk and backhanded it into the top of the goal to make it 2-1 Detroit at 10:29.
Bylsma was unimpressed.
"I think the way I saw a replay there, our guy was trying to get the puck out and [Marian] Hossa came in and used his stick to lift up our guy's stick and the referees made the judgment it wasn't a hook," he said.
"I can slow it down on the replay and make my own judgment but that was what happened — we failed to clear it with that hook and it led to a goal."