VANCOUVER – Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader could barely walk Saturday morning, and almost didn't play against the Vancouver Canucks. He's glad he changed his mind after the pre-game warm up.
With help from linemate Pavel Datsyuk, Abdelkader overcame a scary skate cut on the top of his left foot to end a lengthy drought with two goals, and help lead the Red Wings to a 5-2 win against the Canucks on Saturday.
Abdelkader was cut right through the top of his skate during the Red Wings' 3-2 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, requiring "8-to-10 stitches," and making it hard to even walk the following morning.
"It was all the way down to the bone," said Abdelkader, blood still oozing through his sock. "It just missed a couple tendons. I got really lucky. Last night it felt pretty good after he numbed it up and it was frozen, but this morning was pretty sore."
It felt a lot better after the game, especially after Datsyuk banked a shot off it to tie the game six minutes in, and then angled another puck in off his chest in the third period. It was just the second and third goals of the season – and in 41 games dating back to last season – for Abdelkader, who credited Datsyuk.
"He's amazing," said Abdelkader. "I don't know if there is a better player."
The way Datsyuk is playing – he scored the overtime winner in Edmonton on a highlight reel solo rush before adding three assists against the Canucks – the only surprise was he didn't bank the first shot off Abdelkader's healthy foot.
"He was probably just making sure my foot was all right so he banked it off my bad one," Abdelkader said with a chuckle. "I'll take it."
Datsyuk also set up the first of two goals for Henrik Zetterberg, putting the Red Wings ahead for good and ending a long drought with his first road goal of the season. Zetterberg, who hadn't scored in nine games and only had one his last 21, added another goal off a 3-on-2 rush just 1:20 into the third period.
"I didn't even think about that," Zetterberg said of his scoring slumps. "I think you in Canada are more stat freaks than we are in the (United) States, so it's nice to get it going here where you notice it. It's just nice as a team to score a lot of goals."
It's not the first time they've done it against Roberto Luongo and the Canucks.
Luongo was in for all eight in an 8-3 loss in Detroit on Feb. 24, and finished with just 21 saves this time, with Daniel Cleary adding the fifth goal six minutes into the third period on a long screen shot that went in off the post.
The game actually started well for the Canucks, who were wearing burgundy and cream retro jerseys to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Vancouver Millionaires team that would win a Stanley Cup in 1915.
Alexandre Burrows scored the first of his two goals off a set play just six seconds in to set a new franchise record of their own off the opening faceoff. But Jimmy Howard, who finished with 33 saves, made the first of a couple great saves to take an empty net away Burrows a short while later, allowing the Red Wings to escape the first period tied. They took over in the second.
"We had really good goaltending early," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We were able to weather the storm because of Howie playing so good and then we got playing."
Burrows, who added his second with 2:38 left, lamented the early missed chance at the open net, which came on a delayed penalty call that he drew.
"If I score there I think it's a different game," said Burrows.
Instead, the Canucks failed to convert on the ensuing power play. They didn't even manage a shot during a lengthy 5-on-3 in the third period and are now 0-for-29 over the last 11 games.
"Obviously it's not working, and that would be an understatement," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "And those are our top players."
The Canucks also fell out of top spot in the Northwest Division. Vancouver is tied with the Minnesota Wild with 32 points, but has fewer wins, dropping the Canucks to seventh in the Western Conference, one point behind Detroit. Now the two-time President's Trophy winners must worry about just making the playoffs.
"We're facing some adversity, but we've got 20 guys in there that can do the job and no one's going to do it for us," Burrows said. "We know what we're made of, we know what we can do and we just have to keep putting those work boots on."
They may have lost one of those 20 on Saturday. Forward David Booth left in the final minute of the first period, and was spotted leaving Rogers Arena on crutches with his left foot in a walking boot. He will have an MRI on Monday.
"He was starting to play for us, bringing a lot of energy and some grit for us," Burrows said of Booth. "It's tough to see him go down."
It was just as hard to watch the third period for Canucks fans.
Dominant in stretches early, they had another great chance to tie the game late in the second period when Jannik Hansen was hauled down on a break away from inside the blue line just a minute after Zetterberg scored his first. But Howard held his ground atop the crease on the ensuing penalty shot and tried to poke check the slow moving Hansen, whose shot hit the outside of the post.
"I don't know if that threw him off or what but he hit the post," Howard said.
Despite setting up the first goal, Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said his top line – and power play unit – was to blame for the loss.
"We had total control the first 20 minutes, should have been up, and after that they took over," Henrik said. "It wasn't because they played great, it was us having turnover after turnover and it started with our line. We thought it was going to be a game where we could make plays and create chances, but they came out strong in the second and took advantage of us. That starts with our top guys."