DETROIT -- Johan Franzen earned his first career hat trick, the Red Wings chased the opposing goalie for the second straight game, and Darren McCarty sent the Joe Louis Arena crowd into an uproar with a second-period fight Saturday afternoon.
The outcome was perhaps the Wings’ best post-season performance of these playoffs, as they out-played, out-hustled and out-shot the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
“He was playing real well the last month and a half and he's playing real well now, making the most of his opportunity,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He's a big man with a lot of skill and good hands. When you can't get the puck off the guy and he gets in tight, he's tough for the goalie to handle.”
Dating back to March 2, Franzen, who leads all playoff scorers with seven goals, has compiled 22 goals in his last 23 games.
“I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's legs gonna fall off, he'll probably be in there for Game 3”- Darren McCarty
Other than a boost of convidence from his recent on-ice success, Franzen's teammates have been hard-pressed to come up with an explaination, Nicklas Lidstrom said.
"Whatever it is, everybody should get a piece of that," Lidstrom said. "It’s great to see him take the puck to the net. He really tries to hang on to it. He’s scoring goals where he’s just being patient and going to the front of the net. We wanted to try and hang on to the puck down low and make their whole five-man unit play defense. We’ve been successful at doing that."
The injury woes are significant for Colorado, forced to play again in this series without Peter Forsberg, who skated in pre-game warm-ups, but was unable to go for Saturday’s game. Forsberg played in all six playoff games against the Minnesota Wild in Round 1, scoring a goal with five assists. Colorado was also without the services of key players Wojtek Wolski (upper body) and Scott Hannan (lower body) -- both hurt in Game 1.
“I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's legs gonna fall off, he'll probably be in there for Game 3,” McCarty said. “They're a veteran team. They're well-coached and they've got guys that have been in different situations like this before. It's not like they're a young team, so they can draw on a lot of experience. And we have to draw on the experience of being in this position in the last round. We've been in this position against Colorado before, a lot of us.”
For the second straight game, the Red Wings chased starter Jose Theodore, who surrendered four goals on 20 shots. Peter Budaj, who also entered Game 1 after Theodore gave up four goals on 16 shots on Thursday, replaced him in Saturday’s game, too.
Theodore was sent to the team hotel with an illness after he was lifted in the second period on Thursday. While he said he felt somewhat better Saturday, the same sick feeling persisted.
“I was fine, like I said they’re a good team and as a goalie you have to be ready and be able to make a difference and keep the score tied, even if you’re tired,” Theodore said. “You need to keep the score close and I didn’t do that tonight.
“They’re a good team, and I need to give them a chance to win by keeping the score close and I didn’t do that in the first two games. It’s not my call, I’m going to be ready but it’s not my call.”
Franzen started off the scoring on Detroit’s first power play, tallying his fifth goal of the playoffs from right in front of the Colorado net. While Jeff Finger was serving a two-minute sentence for roughing, Detroit right wing Mikael Samuelsson faked a slap shot from the point, freezing the Colorado defense and then sent a wrist shot towards Theodore. With the puck looking to miss left of Theodore, Franzen reached out to redirect the puck just inside the short side post.
The first period ended with an exclamation on the physical side of the rivalry, with Filppula colliding with Adam Foote. Filppula hit Foote from behind about a foot out from the corner boards in the Colorado end, which drew blood and angered Foote, who stated his case with the referees at the end the period.
The middle period played out much differently for Theodore, as the Wings chased him from the net with three goals in the first 10 minutes. Franzen scored his second of the afternoon on the second power play for the Wings, taking advantage of Ben Guite’s penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. Known by his teammates as Mule, Franzen brought the puck out from behind the Colorado goal, and with an Avalanche defenseman draped on his back, he roofed a backhand shot over Theodore.
The Wings built a 3-0 lead just 98-seconds later when Filppula picked up a rebound off the end boards and chipped the bouncing puck over Theodore’s pad short side, giving Detroit its second three-goal cushion of the series.
Zetterberg finished Theodore’s day, scoring at the 10:11 mark of the period. Coming in on a two-on-one, Zetterberg faked a pass then put a deke on Theodore to fire in his fourth goal of the playoffs.
McCarty excited the JLA crowd when he dropped the gloves for the first time since returning to the Red Wings this season, fighting Cody McCormick at center ice. The two exchanged punches for a decent length fight before before fell to the ice.
Colorado made an early charge in the third, and finally found a way to beat Osgood early on. Laperriere tipped a pass from McCormick through the Detroit goaltender’s legs, scoring his third career playoff goal, and first of the 2008 campaign.
Franzen finished the scoring with a short-handed tally. With Tomas Holmstrom in the box for hooking, Zetterberg and Franzen charged into the offensive end on an odd-man break. Zetterberg made Joe Sakic spin out with a toe drag, and then fired a wrist shot into Budaj’s chest. Franzen charged for the rebound, and knocked the puck into the open net out of midair to send the hats flying onto the ice.
“Hank had a great play, nice toe drag on Sakic, and I got the rebound and I got it in there the second time,” Franzen said. “I thought I was going to pick up the scraps because the second guy was working hard to get back to me, and (Zetterberg) didn’t really have a passing opportunity, so he made a great toe drag instead, and good for me that he didn’t score because I got the rebound.”
The Red Wings head to Denver for Tuesday’s Game 3 at the Pepsi Center. Game 4 is Thursday.
GAME NOTES: Octopi covered the ice prior to Game 2, and the visitors took exception. Colorado forward Cody McLeod picked up the octopus tossed at the end of the national anthem, skated closer to the Detroit bench, waved it at the Red Wings, and then heaved it into the corridor behind the Colorado bench.