DETROIT – It changed the pulse of a really well-played hockey game, and it could be the instrument that ultimately shapes the outcome of the Red Wings’ opening round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Justin Abdelkader’s controversial hit on Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman was like a mortal wound to the Wings as the Western Conference quarterfinal series came to Joe Louis Arena, sight of Saturday’s Game 3.
The Red Wings’ forward received a charging major and the accompanying game-ejection that comes with the five-minute penalty for the hit late in the second period.
From there, the Ducks grabbed momentum, scoring the game’s most important goal of the night just 18-seconds after Abdelkader went to the Red Wings’ locker room.
And the Ducks didn’t stop.
They added three more goals in the third period, handing the Red Wings a 4-0 loss and taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series. Game 4 is Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
The 35-year-old Lydman left the game and did not return. Ducks officials said the 13-year veteran underwent concussion tests as a precaution, and his availability for Monday’s game is not known.
“Right now he’s just got a headache,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s not feeling like celebrating right now.”
A penalty wasn’t called immediately on the hit. But because the game was stopped for a TV timeout, the officials had time to get together, and it was determined that Abdelkader left his feet on the hit, which resulted in Lydman being injured.
“His shoulder hit his shoulder, and the kid went down hard,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They called it a major. … I’m not involved in the next part of the process.”
But former Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan is. Whether or not Abdelkader receives supplemental discipline that decision is up to Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations and player safety, who likely will hold a hearing on Sunday.
Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t believe Abdelkader will be suspended, in fact, he didn’t agree with the referees’ on-ice call.
“I don't think he deserved a five,” Zetterberg said. “It was a no-call from the beginning, both refs didn't do anything. Then when they saw the guy was down, suddenly it was a five. If they think it's not a penalty right away, it's tough to make it five after they talked. I didn't see he deserved to get kicked out of the game.”
If Abdelkader isn’t available for Monday’s game, the Wings will need to fill his role on the team’s most productive forward line with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. But doing so could cause a domino effect.
“It’s not as good. We don’t have anyone with weight to play there,” Babcock said. “That’s the bottom line. We tried (Damien) Brunner, (Gustav) Nyquist and (Joakim) Andersson there. We could put (Johan) Franzen there, but then we’re kind of a one line team.
“When you’re really deep and you lose people it’s no big deal. When you’re like us and not as deep it’s a hard thing to deal with.”
POWER OUTAGE: Prior to Abdelkader’s game-ejection, the Red Wings had plenty of power-play time, but couldn’t get anything past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who turned aside 23 shots in earning his first postseason shutout since 2009.
In all, the Red Wings had 9:48 minutes on the power play, most of it coming in a scoreless first period. Two minutes were divided between 40-seconds worth of a two-man advantage and 80-seconds of a 4-on-3.
“I thought we tried to pass the puck into the net tonight instead of shoot the puck into the net,” Babcock said. “At playoff time you have to have people going to the net and throw it in there and have some ugly ones go in.”
Before Saturday, the Wings’ power play had been clipping along at a 40 percent pace, scoring four goals in 10 opportunities.
With so much time spent on the power play, the top six forwards were exhausted before the first intermission.
“As a coach standing on the bench and you’re getting all the power play chances in the first period at some point you don’t want them,” Babcock said. “If we score three great, but if you don’t you’d rather play 5-on-5 and get going. … That’s a lot of ice time for those guys. They had played eight minutes and that was too much.”
THREE STARS: 3, Emerson Etem, ANA (1 goal); 2, Jonas Hiller, ANA (23 saves, W); 1, Ryan Getzlaf, ANA (1 goal, 1 assist).
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose