Justin Abdelkader leads Wings past Capitals

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader celebrates his goal in the third period Wednesday.

Washington — Who had Justin Abdelkader as the Red Wings' goal-scoring leader at this point of the season?

The grinder is turning into an offensive machine, adding two third-period goals Wednesday, leading the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory over the Capitals.

Abdelkader scored his fourth and fifth goals, including snapping a 2-2 tie at 10:34 of the third period.

"For me, it's not going to be all goals, assists and point," Abdelkader said. "I just have to play the game I'm capable of playing and it's always a bonus when put in pucks and produce offensively.

"I know what my game is and it's simple."

On a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Abdelkader converted a pass from Datsyuk, one-timing a shot from the hashmarks past goalie Bradenn Holtby.

Abdelkader, who also assisted on Gustav Nyquist's opening goal, tied the game at 4:04 of the third period.

"We weren't good enough. We had no tempo," said coach Mike Babcock, who reunited Zetterberg and Datsyuk in the third period. "Plus, Nyquist, (Riley) Sheahan, and (Tomas) Tatar weren't getting enough ice time the way it was going. We just tried to get moving and get better, that's all."

Datsyuk then capped the rally with a power play goal with 53.9 seconds left in the game, a blistering shot from the circle, his second goal.

With the victory, the Red Wings moved to 5-2-2 (12 points), while Washington fell to 4-3-2 (10 points).

"I didn't think we were very good early," Babcock said. "They skated way better than us. We stuck with it and did a good job."

Jimmy Howard preserved the victory with 25 saves.

After a scoreless first period, the Capitals took a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Nyquist opened the scoring in the second period, but Washington forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer answered with Capitals goals. Nyquist scored his fifth of the season, at 8:56 of the period.

Washington was about to gain control of the puck and get on a rush, but forward Marcus Johansson overskated the puck. Abdelkader gained control of it, and found Nyquist alone in front of goalie Braden Holtby, and behind the Capitals defense.

Nyquist made a move and backhanded the puck into Holtby's pads. But the puck popped up, and on the rebound, Nyquist batted it past Holtby, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.

The lead didn't last long.

Kuznetsov tied it on the power play with his first goal.

Holtby, a goalie who can handle the puck, outlet a long pass to Joel Ward at the blue line.

Ward looked over and saw Kuznetsov breaking in alone toward Jimmy Howard. Kuznetsov broke free, and slid the puck past Howard at 13:19.

After a scoreless stretch of 4-on-4 — both teams failed on eight second power plays — the Capitals moved ahead heading into the third period on Brouwer's goal.

Washington defenseman John Carlson skated into the zone and froze the Red Wings defense and Howard with a fake. Carlson slid a pass circle to circle to Brouwer, who powered a one-timer, his second goal, with 58 seconds left in the period.

But the Red Wings rallied in the third, playing their best hockey of the evening.

"We showed some good character, falling behind in the second period then coming out and playing extremely well in the third," Howard said.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz was impressed with what he saw from the Red Wings.

"Detroit checks well," Trotz said. "They get a lot of back pressure. They don't make too many errors and clog up the neutral zone. They do all the hard things that you have to do. When you're chasing a game against them, it gets tough."