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Wings' Abdelkader catches breaks, including his stick

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings left wing Drew Miller (20) fights Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (48) in the third period.

Detroit — Just the way the Red Wings, and specifically Justin Abdelkader, drew it up.

Sure it was.

Erik Cole's tying goal 24 seconds into the third period wasn't necessarily a thing of beauty but Abdelkader wasn't going to take it back.

"Off the defenseman's face and to Colesy, and he gets his nine-iron out and chips it in," said Abdelkader of the less-than-picture-perfect play. "Sometimes that's what happens in games like these, you get a break here or there."

The puck bounced off Chris Butler's face and laid there in front of goaltender Jake Allen, before Cole chipped it past Allen, tying the game.

"That's Abby making one of those good passes right off the guy's face to Coler," coach Mike Babcock said.

Abdelkader wasn't done with his heroics. His 20th goal of the season, 24 seconds into overtime, won it for the Red Wings, 2-1.

The goal was classic Abdelkader, providing a strong net-front presence and batting back a loose puck past Allen.

"I felt like I had it in me," Abdelkader said of his career-best season. "I'm getting a good opportunity and any time you see goals go in, it gets your confidence going in the right direction and that's been the case."

Abdelkader may have gotten away with one on the winning goal.

His stick appeared to shatter just before the goal, whereby Abdelkader could have been called for a penalty playing with a broken stick.

The Blues argued strongly afterward, but the goal stood in the judgement of the referees.

"Maybe it was simultaneous," said Abdelkader, by way of explaining. "It was just one of those things, you're battling in front of the net and it exploded at the same time while putting the puck in the net.

"In the moment, you don't know if it's fully broke or not."

Earning 20 goals was something Abdelkader felt good about.

"It's something you always shoot for," said Abdelkader, whose previous career best was 10. "I felt like I had chances the last few seasons playing with some good minutes and I've had more power-play time.

"I'm just trying to be good at the net and screening the goalie and getting sticks on pucks. Just trying to find ways to get them in."

Seaching for consistency

Jimmy Howard was just as good as he was the other night in Tampa Bay, but this time Howard earned a victory.

Howard didn't get any offensive help in the 3-1 loss to the Lightning, but Abdelkader's goal and assist helped Howard and the Red Wings to the victory in this game.

Howard made 23 saves and will get the start Tuesday against Arizona, as the Red Wings hope to see the prolonged hot streak Howard had the first half of the season.

"I was waiting for Howie to be Howie," Babcock said. "Howie wants to be Howie, too. He wants to play every night and wants to play well.

"It's hard to be a goaltender in this league. It's just like being a quarterback in the NFL or a pitcher in baseball. When you don't deliver every single day, people start questioning you.

"Howie kind of relishes that opportunity. He's played two good games here, he'll go the next game, and we'll keep going. We need good goaltending."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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