Welcome to another season of MiHockey’s Michi-gamer!
We take great pride in our homegrown talent. Whether they grew up in the Mitten or we welcomed them here for college or juniors, they are our own. They represent the best place in the world for hockey.
Every morning, we pick one Michi-gamer from the previous night’s slate of games across all professional levels of hockey – one Michigan player who stood out above the rest.
Just two nights after posting a goal and an assist to lead Anaheim to a 3-0 series lead on Winnipeg, Ryan Kesler delivered once again in Game 4 to put the final nail in the Jets’ coffin. This time, the Livonia native potted a pair of back-breaking goals. First, with the Jets only down one in the third period, Kesler crashed the net to light the lamp at 6:41 to give the Ducks a pivotal insurance tally. Mark Stuart pulled Winnipeg to within one less than four minutes later, proving Kesler’s goal to be a big one at that stage of the game. Then, five minutes later with the Jets utilizing their defense on the rush, desperately seeking a goal to keep their season alive, they got caught in the Winnipeg zone and Anaheim came back the other way on a 2-on-1. Kesler was the recipient of a Jakob Silfverberg pass and once again scored an insurance goal to make it a 4-2 game, all but securing the sweep. Sami Vatanen added an empty-netter for the 5-2 final to thrust the Ducks into the second round. The goals were Kesler’s second and third of the series to give him five points in four games.
Watch highlights of the Ducks’ 5-2 win, featuring Kesler’s second and third goals of the series:
In his return to the Red Wings lineup Tuesday night after missing six games with a hand injury from blocking a shot, Justin Abdelkader made his presence felt in more ways than one in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Muskegon native set up Riley Sheahan’s third-period, powerplay insurance marker that put Detroit ahead 2-0 just 6:42 into the final frame. But he also recorded six hits, blocked a shot and had a shot on goal himself in 15:54 of ice time. He also took a roughing penalty in the third period after Cedric Paquette stuck his stick out to trip Petr Mrazek. Abdelkader took exception and wrestled Paqeutte to the ice. Though Paquette would’ve gotten the only penalty to give Detroit a 5-on-3 powerplay, Abdelkader defended his young netminder, energized the crowd, sent a message and ultimately did not hurt his team in the process.
Watch Abdelkader set up Sheahan’s 2-0 goal:
In a wild game that saw five different Michigan connections record a total of eight points, Livonia native Ryan Kesler shined with a huge equalizing tally late in the third period to force overtime for his Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. With 2:14 to play in the third period, Kesler took a brilliant back-door feed from Jakob Silfverberg and buried his first of the series to even the game at four aside. Former Plymouth Whalers standout Rickard Rakell would then record the game-winner 5:12 into overtime to give the Ducks a commanding 3-0 series lead on the Winnipeg Jets. Kesler also assisted on Silfverberg’s second-period goal earlier in the game to give him three points in three games thus far.
Watch Kesler’s game-tying goal here:
Despite being held off the scoresheet in a Game 1 loss to the New York Rangers, Chris Kunitz was not to be denied in Game 2. The former Ferris State standout notched his first three points of the postseason in Saturday’s 4-3 Game 2 victory. With his Pittsburgh Penguins down 1-0 in the second period, Kunitz drew a helper on Brandon Sutter’s powerplay goal at 10:01. That swung the momentum in the Pens’ favor, as Sidney Crosby added a pair of goals in the frame, one of which Kunitz assisted on, to give his team a two-goal cushion heading into the final period. With the Rangers scoring early in the third, Kunitz scored a powerplay goal at 9:41 of the period to put the Pens up 4-2. That proved to be the game-winner, as Rick Nash cut the New York deficit to one with six seconds remaining in the game. The three-point outing earned Kunitz the second star of the game, too.
Watch Kunitz’s game-winner here:
Michi-gamer features compiled by MiHockey’s Stefan Kubus and Michael Caples. Click here to see last week’s Michi-gamer picks.