Abdelkader scored twice in the final 20 minutes to help the Red Wings rally for a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.
Abdelkader broke a 2-2 tie when he took a drop pass from Pavel Datsyuk and beat Braden Holtby from the left circle at 10:34 for his fifth goal of the season. Detroit tied at 4:04 when Abdelkader scored off a Washington turnover he caused in the slot.
"I kind of jumped in and came in from up high there and got a good stick on the puck," Abdelkader said of the tying goal. "The puck bounced loose there and I found a way to put it in the net."
"We showed some good character there, falling behind in the second and coming out and playing extremely well in the third," Howard said.
"I thought we were good up until midway through the second period, maybe even to the end of the second period, but then we started taking a few chances," Brouwer said. "Couple of needless turnovers."
Alex Ovechkin failed to score a point for the fifth straight game, the longest drought of his career.
Holtby stopped 18 shots and had an assist.
Datsyuk's goal ended a streak of 23 Detroit power plays without a goal.
The top line of Abdelkader, Zetterberg and Nyqvist has accounted for 13 of the team's 22 goals this season
The Red Wings opened the scoring midway through the second period following a Washington turnover. Abdelkader got the loose puck and fed Nyquist, who was alone in front of the net. Holtby made a pad save, but Nyquist banged in his own rebound for his fifth goal of the season.
"Their forwards backcheck hard. They're good at picking your pocket with a stick or picking off passes," Washington's Matt Nikanen said about Detroit's ability to generate turnovers.
After the Capitals failed in their first three attempts against Detroit's penalty killers, Holtby helped them break through.
The Washington goalie sent a pass to Ward at the Red Wings' blue line. Ward then fed a streaking Kuznetsov, who had gotten behind the defense and he beat Howard high to tie it.
The Capitals took a 2-1 lead with 58 seconds left in the period when Brouwer one-timed John Carlson's pass home from the left circle.
The Red Wings managed only three shots on goal in the first period.
"I don't think we were very good early," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They skated way better than us."
A goal by Detroit's Drew Miller was negated by penalty on Luke Glendening for goalie interference at 6:22. On the replay, it appeared Holtby tripped coming back from behind the net and wasn't touched by Glendening.
Ovechkin had gone without a point in four games four previous times. ... Prior to the national anthem, a photo of former Red Wings great Gordie Howe was shown on the scoreboard. Loud applause followed as the public address announcer conveyed the Capitals' best wishes to Howe, who had a stroke Sunday. ... Capitals F Tom Wilson made his season debut after missing eight games while recovering from a broken left ankle.