By chance and incident, 22-year-old Michigan native Justin Abdelkader was called upon to fill the void of Pavel Datsyuk and/or Kris Draper, as in he supplied the Detroit Red Wings with some legs in the absence of the two acclaimed players.
The Red Wings already knew they would enter this year’s instalment of the Stanley Cup finals with a part of their lineup gutted, since they lost 50 man-games to injury this postseason.
But it would have been far-fetched to conceive Abdelkader as a primary contributor on the goal sheet, on limited ice-time nonetheless.
He's been exactly that.
Abdelkader provided his second straight insurance marker as the Wings successfully thwarted the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in Game Two—not to mention maintain the same score as their previous encounter 24 hours earlier.
He’s been an archetypal manifestation of what the Wings have in abundance; the ability to compensate for what has looked like a patchy exterior by injecting unknown reserves and essentially making us forget about their ailments.
The Penguins, meanwhile, head back to Mellon Arena facing the proposition that, if Game Three is not won, the Stanley Cup will elude them a second straight time.
They could potentially attribute most of their current on-ice woes—which includes back-to-back performances where only two goals have been scored—to the enlivened boards and a manifold of other unconventional bounces, only a pinball machine may be able to replicate.
Game Two didn’t harbour the same heart-wrenching follies displayed in the 3-1 loss prior to it, but there were other means by which the Penguins were deprived of an additional tally or two. Sidney Crosby surely lamented the sound of iron on two or more occasions, while Chris Osgood and company were able to stifle flurries of offense, including a handful of plays in front of his goal.
"I think in each of the first two games we have been able to play in the offensive zone for periods of time," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma told reporters during his post-game press conference. "We've been able to get shots; been able to out-shoot a good Detroit team. But they've been able to get the timely goals. They've been better at getting pucks in and around the net and getting that goal.
“So as there are some positives we can do and draw on, and focus on ask get better at our game. Continue to get there. Get to the on offensive zone, get to the goalie. Look for those loose pucks and build on that. That's what we'll do when we get back for Game Three."
The Penguins have dealt with a 2-0 series deficit earlier in the playoffs when the Washington Capitals retained home-ice advantage in the second round. The Red Wings, it goes without saying, are a much more formidable team and boast a three-time champion goaltender in Chris Osgood.
He has made 62 saves in the quick turnaround matches and has indefinitely detracted the premature opinions of his critiques with his stout play in goal.
What also spurred attention was Evgeni Malkin’s confrontation with Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg, who had been drawn into a fight after a late sequence with less than a minute remaining in the game.
It would be hard to envision any suspensions, given the significance and subsequent criticism such an action would incite.*
Of course, Malkin wasn’t too successful in sending a message to Zetterberg, having been undressed cleanly in the mix of the tussle.
But the Penguins will surely have to realign their focus in Game Three and find a way to shave off the old adage that is seemingly gravitating towards their direction; to play good enough to lose.
*The NHL has rescinded the automatic one-game suspension for Evgeni Malkin after instigating a fight with Detroit Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg. Both players will be available for Game Three at Mellon Arena.