doesn’t get the attention that some of the Detroit Red Wings
’ stars do. Maybe he should.
Franzen’s two goals helped the Red Wings build an early lead, and Chris Osgood’s heroics enabled them to hang on for a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Franzen had 15 of his 27 regular-season goals after March 1 and scored the overtime winner in Game 5 of the opening round against Nashville. He gives Detroit’s opponents one more thing more to be concerned about.
''Their top line is dangerous, but he's the next guy you have to worry about,'' Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. ''He's got skill and he's a big power forward.''
Franzen scored late in the first period and early in the second, giving the Wings a 4-1 lead and what looked like an easy victory. But Colorado scored twice in the second and had several chances to tie the game in the third. The best came with less than 10 seconds left, when Paul Stastny’s pass set up John-Michael Liles alone in the slot, 10 feet in front of Osgood, who slid from left to right, stopped the shot and made sure there was no rebound.
"I just pushed out,” Osgood said. “I knew there wasn't a lot of time left. He couldn't have done much, because I was right on top of him."
The final horn came as a relief to the sellout crowd at Joe Louis Arena – where Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon – and to Wings coach Mike Babcock.
“I thought we played real well in the first period,” Babcock said. “We were skating and moving the puck. We shot the puck and went to the net. After that, we didn’t shoot and we didn’t go to the net anymore, and when you don’t do that, they’re on top of you and going after you.”
The Wings and Avs were among the NHL’s fiercest rivals in the late 1990s and early part of this decade. But they are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and while the crowd was buzzing, it wasn’t the same as it was when the teams were meeting five teams in an seven-year stretch.
“There are lots of players who weren’t even in the League when this rivalry was at its best,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Avs were hurt by the absence of center Peter Forsberg, who missed the game with a groin injury. Quenneville said Forsberg was injured during the morning skate, and that “we’ll probably know more tomorrow.”
Another forward, Wojtek Wolski, left with an upper-body injury.
''We have to collectively make up for it,'' forward Ryan Smyth said.
Avs starting goalie Jose Theodore “was sick last night,” said Quenneville, who lifted him after Franzen’s second goal at 1:13 of the third period made it 4-1. “Normally, he skates the morning of a game. But he rested all day and he wanted to play. He's not feeling great. But hopefully, it's a short spell and he'll be fine."
The Avalanche scored just two goals while being swept in the four-game season series, including a pair of shutout losses in Detroit. Despite missing Forsberg, the Avs broke the goalless string midway through the first period when Stastny converted a passout from Smyth by lifting a short backhander over Osgood at 8:53.
Colorado’s lead lasted all of 53 seconds. Linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg played give-and-go in the Avs’ zone, with Zetterberg breaking behind the defense, taking a feed from Datsyuk and lifting a backhander past Theodore at 9:46.
“I thought we got off to a good start, even though they got the first goal,” Franzen said. “I thought we were the better team. Good thing we got a goal the next shift.''
Babcock said his team wanted to push the tempo, and Zetterberg’s goal clearly energized the Wings, who carried the play. They failed to score on a power play, but went ahead at 13:48 when Dan Cleary’s blast from the high slot hit Theodore, popped high into the air, came down and rolled past the goaltender and into the net.
The Wings made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 17:23. With Cody McLeod off for hooking, Franzen got a piece of Niklas Kronvall’s point shot and deflected it past Theodore.
“We got a couple of lucky bounces, on Cleary’s shot and my tip,” Franzen said. “There wasn’t much he could do.”
Detroit finished the period with a 15-6 advantage in shots and a two-goal lead. The Wings quickly added to it when Franzen, left alone above the top of the right circle, beat Theodore with an unscreened 35-foot slap shot 1:13 into the second period.
That sent Theodore, the Avs’ MVP in their opening-round series win over Minnesota, to the bench in favor of Peter Budaj — and appeared to give a spark to the Avalanche. Colorado made it 4-2 at 5:17 when McLeod carried the puck into the zone and fed Liles, whose shot from near the left dot beat Osgood to the short side.
Colorado made it 4-3 at 16:29 on a superb three-way passing play. Smyth carried the puck down the left side and slipped a pass to Stastny near the top of the left circle. Lidstrom slid over to play Stastny, but Stastny fed a pass into the slot for an onrushing Milan Hejduk, who tucked it between Osgood and the post to make it 4-3.
"When you're up 4-1, you're saying ‘We've got a lot of hockey left, let's get playing,’” Babcock said. “There wasn't much going on, and then all the sudden, there's a lot going on."
Budaj kept the margin at one goal about 5½ minutes into the third period when he foiled Zetterberg from close-in and got his pads on a pair of rebound shots by Tomas Holmstrom.
Osgood preserved the lead when he stopped Tyler Arnason’s sizzler from the slot with about seven minutes to play. Hejduk nearly tied the game a minute later, but his wrist shot from the left circle rang off the post.
“There are lots of things we’re going to have the chance to critique tomorrow,” Babcock said. “For now, we’ll enjoy the win.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.