The Anaheim Ducks said they weren't concerned about a letdown following their epic matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks two days earlier -- not with their fiercest rival in town for the weekend.
But the Detroit Red Wings proceeded to shred the Ducks' usually efficient puck-moving defense, chase goalie Viktor Fasth and ride Justin Abdelkader's first career hat trick for a 5-1 win Friday night.
Abdelkader doubled his season goal total in highlight fashion with a terrific 1-on-1 play against Sheldon Souray in the first period and two one-timers in the second. Noted Ducks-killer Pavel Datsyuk delivered the daggers with a goal and a takeaway that led to Abdelkader's third goal – Datsyuk's 250th career goal and 500th career assist, respectively.
The dam has burst for Abdelkader, who has five goals in two games after he tallied one in his first 28. Of course, it helps to play on a line with Pavel Datsyuk.
"Sometimes the puck will find you, or follow you, and maybe that was the case this game," Abdelkader said. "We had a good team game. Give those guys a lot of credit – Pav and [Johan Franzen]. They've done a tremendous job, and I'm just trying to do my part and pull ... as Pav would say, the piano, up and down the ice."
Riding high on its win Wednesday against Chicago and the return of Corey Perry from a four-game suspension, Anaheim's franchise-record 13-game home winning streak ended in a thud, as did a League-high 12-game point streak. It was their first regulation loss since Feb. 25 and first home loss since Jan. 25, but no one was pointing to the Chicago game as a factor.
"To me that's an excuse," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I believe it's an excuse. I don't know why it would be a letdown game. You have a whole 24 hours in between and you're playing the Detroit Red Wings, for crying out loud. I would be jacked up just so I didn't hear their fans cheers in our building. That's embarrassing enough."
Abdelkader snapped a no-look pass from Johan Franzen past Fasth at 3:06 of the second period after Detroit played keepaway in Anaheim's zone. He finished Franzen's feed at 12:46 for a 4-1 lead after Datsyuk stole Luca Sbisa's pass to Selanne as Anaheim tried to break out of its zone.
Abdelkader added an assist on Franzen's goal with 4:43 remaining for a four-point night.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock put Abdelkader with Datsyuk a month ago.
"I don't think he thinks he's the player, I think he's the puller," Babcock said of the piano reference. "Good for Abby. Abby's been working hard. I've heard over the last little while that he's not the right guy to play there …. Well, we think he is the right guy to play there. His hard work has been rewarded."
Anaheim owns 14 come-from-behind wins this season -- including the Chicago game -- but Jimmy Howard stood tall with 33 saves as the Ducks dissolved. Captain Ryan Getzlaf committed a hooking penalty that led to Datsyuk's goal, then took himself off the ice another five minutes when he fought Jonathan Ericsson to try and spark his team.
Datsyuk was unchecked in front of the net on a Detroit power play to backhand in a loose puck at 14:59 of the first period to put the Red Wings ahead to stay. Detroit's road power play has scored in four straight games after it broke the franchise record set in 1938-39 by going scoreless in its first 10 road games.
Selanne actually helped Anaheim get out of the gate with a pretty finish of Kyle Palmieri's pass on a 3-on-2 rush for a 1-0 lead. It was his 671stt career goal. But a rare bad sequence by Souray and Francois Beauchemin led to Detroit's first goal, and Boudreau said that from there "we were sort of dead in the water."
Deep in his own end, Brendan Smith sent a long stretch pass that went right to Beauchemin -- but Beauchemin had the puck go off him and right to Abdelkader, who badly beat Souray to the net and stuffed it through the five-hole on Fasth at 13:26.
"Right off the bat, [Souray] and [Beauchemin] they were on for the first goal and I hadn't seen that in a while," Boudreau said. "And your power play doesn't score and they come right back with a power-play goal, it ignites them. I thought if we could have gone into the first period with a tie or ahead we would have been able to make some adjustments."
Cam Fowler agreed that the Chicago game had little impact.
"We've been really good with [protecting the puck] all season, and it's something that we preach as a defensive corps back there," Fowler said. "We want to get the pucks in our forwards hands as soon as possible. Like I said, you give that team just a little bit of light – they're so good at lifting sticks and knocking pucks down – they can make you pay for it."