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Franzen's epic effort keeps Wings alive

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
DETROIT -- Johan Franzen really doesn't want to go home for the summer.
 
The power forward recorded a natural hat trick and briefly was credited with four goals in the first period as the Detroit Red Wings staved off elimination Thursday night with a 7-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of this Western Conference Semifinal at Joe Louis Arena.
 
MORE COVERAGE: FRANZEN SAVORS BIG NIGHT

Not to be denied, Franzen did score his fourth goal of the night via the power play in the third period. In all, he had six points -- a record for the Original Six franchise (Norm Ullman and Steve Yzerman each had five) -- in one of the more remarkable postseason performances of all time.

"You don't want to get swept, you want to show your home fans that you want to win this thing." Franzen said. "We wanted to have a good game for them. We won this one and now we've got to win the next one."

Indeed, it was another tremendous showing by the Red Wings in an elimination game. In the two contests played in these playoffs with its season on the line, Detroit has outscored its opponents 13-2.

"We were the desperate team we had to be," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "That first period, our first two lines got really hot. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, and 'Mule' got hot. He was shooting at the right moments and finding the corners. It was great to see 'Mule' step up the way he did."
 
San Jose, which still holds a 3-1 lead in this best-of-7 series, gets its second crack at advancing to the Western Conference Finals when the teams meet on Saturday night at HP Pavilion. The Sharks had won their last six games and are 4-1 at home in this year's playoffs.

"If I have to go in there right now and talk to them, shame on them," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "They saw the same game that I watched. We're all very disappointed. I haven't used that word in a good month. We're all disappointed. We weren't prepared when we knew what was coming."
 
Franzen, who entered with a 10-game point streak, also added two assists. His first three goals came in a span of 3:26 during the first period. Had the game's opening goal not been changed in Todd Bertuzzi's favor, Franzen would have tied Tim Kerr (1985) and Mario Lemieux (1989) with four straight goals in a playoff game.
 
It was the second-fastest three goals by a single player in NHL postseason history. Kerr's last three goals against the New York Rangers on April 13, 1985, were scored in 3:24. The last player to get four goals in a playoff game was Anaheim's Joffrey Lupul, who scored all of his team's goals in the Ducks' 4-3 overtime win against Edmonton on May 9, 2006.

"He came to play," said McLellan, who's familiar with Franzen's play from his days as an assistant with Detroit. "He's a huge man -- that's why they call him the Mule. He came to play, he worked hard, he shot the puck and it went in the net.

"He can do that. It's not something we're not aware of. We have players that can do that too. They just need to bring it."

Detroit struck first when Bertuzzi scored on the power play 5:40 into the game. After Dwight Helminen was whistled for tripping, Bertuzzi parked himself in front of the net and redirected Franzen's wrister from the left circle past Evgeni Nabokov as Detroit took a 1-0 lead. The goal was originally credited to Franzen, but was properly changed during the first intermission.

"As it was going on and he got the fourth, I was like, 'Jesus ... if they announce it man, I might get booed out of the building,'" Bertuzzi joked. "I was a little reluctant to take it. I was standing in front of the net and it ended up hitting me. Goals are goals. Who cares who gets them?"
 
But Franzen was just getting started. He doubled the Wings' lead just 2:10 later, when he collected Henrik Zetterberg's rebound and poked a turnaround backhander past Nabokov for his fourth goal of the playoffs. He made it 3-0 at 10:44 when he took a nifty pass from Bertuzzi and ripped a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Nabokov high and to the far side to make it 3-0.

"He's done it before in the playoffs," San Jose captain Rob Blake said of Franzen, who now has 35 goals in 74 career postseason games. "He had time to get shots off and he had time to get to the net. They played in our zone pretty much the whole first period."
 
Franzen completed his natural hat trick at 11:16, when he put his own rebound past Nabokov to make it 4-0. Filppula then made it 5-0 in the final minute of the first period when his shot from the left corner went off the skate of Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray and past Nabokov. Filppula was credited with his fourth goal of the playoffs.

"The guys were ready to play," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "When you get hot, you just shoot the puck. Things went well for us here tonight. In saying that, we live to play another day, which is what this is all about."

Nabokov was pulled prior to the start of the second period. He allowed five goals on nine shots in the opening 20 minutes and was replaced by Thomas Greiss, who made 26 saves.

"The way the night was going, we didn't want to leave him in there," McLellan said of Nabokov. "He's played a lot and worked hard lately. It was time to put Thomas in and you never know ... sometimes you can go in there and spark a team."
 
It didn't, however, as Brian Rafalski scored on the power play just 3:05 into the second period. After Helminen was hit with his second penalty of the night, Rafalski took a cross-ice feed from Bertuzzi and one-timed a laser past Greiss to make it 6-0.
 
Dany Heatley got San Jose on the board at 19:11 of the second period, when he took a pass from Joe Thornton and fired a rocket from the slot past Jimmy Howard (28 saves) for a power-play tally. It was Heatley's second goal of the playoffs.
 
Detroit lost defenseman Brad Stuart in the first period due to a hip check by San Jose captain Rob Blake in the neutral zone. The Red Wings said Stuart suffered a lower-body injury, but Babcock said Stuart will be ready to go for Game 5.

"Obviously, we did a good job here today," Babcock said.  "We've got to continue to do a good job. It's been a tight series in our mind. We closed the gap here a little bit, but we've got a long way to go."
 
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL




Shift of the Game: Johan Franzen was in a class by himself in the first period, but he, Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg did some nice work midway through that led to Franzen's second goal of the night off a nifty pass by Bertuzzi at 10:43. It gave Detroit a 3-0 lead.


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