NEWARK, N.J. -- Without several key players in the lineup, the Detroit Red Wings stifled the New Jersey Devils with an impressive defensive display on the way to a 3-1 victory Friday at Prudential Center.
The Devils were held to their lowest shot total of the season (11), tying a franchise record for fewest in a game. The Devils had 11 shots in a 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 27, 2001.
Franzen, who extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists), collected a pass from Gustav Nyquist and deposited his ninth of the season to give Detroit its first lead with 7:20 remaining. Tatar scored an unassisted power-play goal with 1:03 to go.
Tatar received his chance after Devils goalie Cory Schneider (18 saves) was whistled for an illegal play outside the trapezoid (Rule 1.8) at 18:52. The faceoff was won by Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, but a giveaway in the New Jersey end led to Tatar's shot from between the circles that beat Schneider high to the glove side.
Schneider pleaded his case with the referee after getting called for the penalty and was noticeably upset after allowing the goal. He felt he made a successful clearing attempt after the puck entered the area behind the net.
Schneider said he was not given an explanation after the call was made.
"There was none," he said. "He made his call. I didn't see the replay. I've never been called for that before. I was pretty sure I waited until it got in the trapezoid, and for him to make that call from the back side … he has to be a thousand percent sure on that. So if he was, he was. [We have] to live with it, but to me it's a tough call to make with a minute left in the game."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock agreed.
"I really didn't see it, but I'm always surprised because that's a tough call there," he said. "But rules are rules. If he was outside the trapezoid, I guess it's a penalty. But in saying all that, it was a tough one."
Detroit (15-8-7) will return home to play the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. New Jersey (11-13-6), which has lost three straight (0-2-1), embarks on a three-game road trip beginning Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"We've got to keep it going," Franzen said. "It's tough without our big guys, but it's important knowing we can win without them."
Schneider made seven saves in the second, a period dominated by the Red Wings. He stopped a quick sequence of four shots by Todd Bertuzzi and Nyquist with Detroit on the power play. When defenseman Jon Merrill fell down to give the Red Wings an odd-man rush, Schneider made a stick save against Daniel Cleary at 17:29.
The Red Wings' persistence paid off late in the second when Joakim Andersson scored his first goal in 15 games to pull the visitors into a 1-1 tie. Drew Miller collected a pass from Andersson off the end wall, and after putting a shot on Schneider at the right post, Andersson cleaned up the rebound at 19:24.
"That was a huge goal, no question," Babcock said. "It was a great play by [Daniel] Alfredsson at the blue line. We had given up seven or eight shots at that point, so it wasn't like they had momentum but we didn't have it either. It was a game that was offensively challenged by both teams."
Gustavsson's best save came 3:38 into the second period with the Devils holding a 1-0 lead. That's when Adam Henrique threw the puck in front from the right post and hit Gustavsson in the back. With the puck in the air behind him, the 6-foot-3 goalie reached back with his left arm and had the presence of mind to swat it away with his glove.
"I thought [Gustavsson] made a few great saves," Franzen said. "When I looked up and there was only one minute left, they had nine shots, but that wasn't how it felt. He made some key saves and he's been playing great for us."
Babcock wouldn't commit to Gustavsson or Jimmy Howard as his starter Saturday when pressed on the issue. Gustavsson has won his past five starts and is 8-0-1.
The Devils opened a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Andy Greene in the first period. After collecting the puck behind his net, the defenseman skated the length of the ice before dishing to Patrik Elias on left wing after crossing the Red Wings blue line. Greene took a return pass from Elias in the slot and redirected his fourth of the season off the left arm of Gustavsson at 13:43.
Schneider, who was making his fourth start in five games, made eight saves in the first. He was the only reason the Devils remained within striking distance much of the night.
"It's frustrating," Schneider said. "We didn't get it done. I didn't get it done. It was a tough way to end it."
Bertuzzi, who played on the top line with Franzen and Nyquist, returned to the lineup after missing the previous six games with an upper-body injury.
"It's important to stick with it," Alfredsson said. "We feel we have a good foundation to fall back on when you don't have the offensive threats in the lineup as you have normally. We trust in the system and we're well prepared before the game. We bounced back well losing against Philadelphia on Wednesday. For our confidence, this was a very important win."
Babcock said he not only was proud of the way the young players stepped up in his lineup, including Nyquist and Tatar, but the leadership provided by veterans Franzen, Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall.
"I think that the Mule [Franzen] can lead with his play, but he's doing more than that," Babcock said. "He's staying determined, he's patient and positive and he's helping us have success. He, Alfie and Kronwall are doing a good job for us. Without the people we have, there's a leadership void and there's opportunities for others."
The Devils have five players on injured reserve: forwards Ryan Carter (leg), Stephen Gionta (ankle) and Ryane Clowe (head), defenseman Adam Larsson (lower body) and captain Bryce Salvador (non-displaced stress fracture in foot).
Devils forward Travis Zajac, who had one shot in the game, felt there was no room to maneuver against a determined Red Wings team that was coming off an embarrassing 6-3 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
"They're a good skating team, they play on the same page, so it makes it tougher that way," Zajac said. "I don't think it was any tighter than any other game. We just didn't execute coming out of our own end. For us, we have to play in the other end."