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Franzen's hat trick powers Wings past Avs

by John Kreiser

Johan Franzen scored three times to lift Detroit to a 5-1 victory Saturday over the banged-up Avs, giving the NHL's top-seeded team a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal.
WATCH highlights from the Red Wings' win
Johan Franzen’s locker-room nickname is “Mule.” For the second straight game, the Detroit Red Wings rode him to a victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Franzen, who had two goals in the Wings’ win in Game 1, had three more on Saturday as Detroit played perhaps its best game thus far in the playoffs while beating the Avalanche 5-1 to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

The Wings outshot the injury-riddled Avs 40-20 and never let them get into the game. Franzen had a goal in each period for the Wings’ first playoff hat trick since 2002, when Darren McCarty scored three in a 5-3 win over Colorado in the Western Conference final.

“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 of Franzen, who had 15 of his 27 regular-season goals after March 1. “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.”

Franzen had two goals and an assist in Detroit’s series-opening 4-3 win. Since the beginning of March, Franzen, who leads all playoff scorers with seven goals, has scored 22 in his last 23 games.

''He's got a hot stick right now,'' Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. ''Everything he touches seems to be going in.''

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Denver, and the Avalanche have to hope that some of their injured players will benefit from the two-day break.

The Avs were without center Peter Forsberg (groin), defenseman Scott Hannan (lower-body injury) and forward Wojtek Wolski (upper-body injury) in Game 2. They hope to have Forsberg and Hannan back on Tuesday; Wolski, who was injured in Game 1, is likely to miss the rest of the series.

''If we use that as an excuse, we have to do something else with our lives,'' said Colorado forward Ian Laperriere, who scored early in the third period to spoil Chris Osgood’s shutout bid. ''Every team goes through that.''

The Wings are anticipating that Forsberg will be back when the series moves West.

“I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's legs are 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.”

The Red Wings chased Theodore midway through the second period after Franzen scored his first two goals and Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg added goals.

“I was fine,” said Theodore, who was lifted early in the second period in Game 1, then sent back to the team hotel with the flu. “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. 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.”

Quenneville told reporters he does not expect to make a goaltender change for Game 3.

At the other end, Detroit didn't give the Avs much of a chance. The Wings’ defense held Colorado to four shots in the first, six in the second and 10 in the third as the Avalanche opened up the offense to take more chances trying to come back. They had turned a 4-1 game into a 4-3 nailbiter in Game 1, but this time, the Wings never gave them the chance.

''We wanted to build off of what happened last game, but it didn't happen,'' Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. ''Obviously a poor performance on our part. They had the legs.''

Franzen opened the scoring 4:22 into the game, redirecting Mikael Samuelsson’s wrist shot past Theodore for a power-play goal. Detroit broke the game open in the second period when Franzen, Filppula and Zetterberg scored in the first 10:11, sending Theodore to the bench for the second straight game.

Laperriere got the Avs on the board 2:38 into the final period, redirecting Cody McCormick’s pass behind Osgood, before Franzen finished his hat trick with a shorthanded goal at 8:47, knocking Zetterberg’s rebound out of midair and past Peter Budaj.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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