Abdelkader embraces enforcer role after 'dirty' play in Game 3
DETROIT -- Justin Abdelkader may have cost his team a two-man power-play advantage when he confronted Tampa Bay's Cedric Paquette and wrestled him to the ice midway through the third period, but he'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Seconds earlier, Paquette used his stick to upend Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek, who was in the process of pitching a 22-save shutout over the Lightning. He had just stoned the ever-dangerous Brian Boyle on another shorthanded breakaway to preserve a two-goal lead, and suddenly he found himself face-first on the ice.
"I saw that play and I thought it was really dirty," Abdelkader said after his team's 3-0 win in Game 3 Tuesday night. "There was no need for that, and I took offense to it."
The Wings were on the power play at the time, and Paquette was whistled for goaltender interference. But Abdelkader felt it was time to send a message.
"Obviously, it's one of those plays where maybe if I don't do anything we're on a five-on-three, but I just thought it was a dirty play and I was pretty upset about it."
Abdelkader offered up a masterful, all-around performance, and his teammates were grateful to have him back for the first time since he suffered a hand injury on April 4.
"He was unbelievable," said Riley Sheahan. "When we can have him back in the lineup it changes the game. Just the way he skates, how hard he works in front of the net. That's something that gives our team confidence."
CAN'T TRUST THE NUMBERS?
The final stats on the official game summary had the Wings outhitting Tampa Bay 48-26? Take it with a giant block of salt, coach Mike Babcock said.
"I don't know if it's right or not," Babcock said, waving the sheet at his post-game news conference. "Every time I go into an opposing building and look at these stats, I don't believe one thing. "
The Wings keep their own such stats, but Babcock didn't need to analyze numbers to explain why his team was so successful in this game, starting with strong, sustained forechecking.
"Obviously, we were able to get on their D a little bit, and we need to continue to do that," he said. "And we had deeper lines up front, for sure. So that helped us. Being home and having the last change and getting the matchups we wanted didn't hurt us either."
Babcock gave the Joe Louis Arena crowd an assist, too.
"When you do good things, the crowd gets into it," he said. "In sporting events, if you don't do anything good the crowd just sits there and watches because they can't figure out what you're doing. You've got to do things to get them going, and I thought we did that tonight."
Abdelkader seconded that notion.
"The crowds always seem to reach another level here during the playoffs," he said, "and it's so fun playing out there for them."
A PAT ON THE BACK
No one was more thrilled to see Sheahan score his first playoff goal than his coach, who defended the youngster who struggled in the first two games of this series.
"He's a kid," Babcock said, "and he had to play against (Steven) Stamkos the first to nights -- and he didn't have to tonight.
"I think Shea's a real good play, and any time you don't play the way you want to your confidence can get a bit shaken. It was a real good opportunity for him tonight, and it was nice to see him score a goal."
In fact, Sheahan and his line, with Joakim Andersson on one flank and Tomas Jurco on another, had several good shifts throughout the game Babcock said, and that creates a teaching moment.
"We'll be able to go through those with him tomorrow at practice," Babcock said. "You know, when a guy doesn't have too many good shifts, he doesn't need to hear a whole bunch of negative stuff. He knows he didn't play good. He's a big man with good hands and he knows how to play good."