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Big Bert enjoys biggest day of career

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROITJohan Franzen wasn’t the only Red Wing to have a milestone night on Thursday.

His linemate Todd Bertuzzi set a career-high in single-game points, recording a goal and four assists in the Wings’ 7-1 win over San Jose in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

“It was much-needed,” Bertuzzi said of his five-point effort, which helped the Wings avoid elimination after falling behind 3-0 in the bet-of-seven series.

He scored the Wings’ first goal on a power play 5:40 into the first period. He then went on to assist three of Franzen’s four goals. Bertuzzi’s prettiest assist came after he set-up Brian Rafalski with a beautiful cross-ice pass to make it 6-1 at the 3:05 mark of the third.

Before Thursday, Bertuzzi had never registered more than two-points in 63 career playoff games with four different teams. It was his highest point total ever in 14 NHL seasons, eclipsing his previous best, four-points, which he has done six times.

Bertuzzi has always been an offensive threat, recording 97 points in the 2002-03 season with Vancouver. But this season, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bertuzzi had been forced to adapt a more physical, net-front presence in order to give linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula space to work with the puck.

Zetterberg was happy to see Bertuzzi rewarded with a successful night in such an important game.

“It’s nice to see that he gets rewarded like that,” Zetterberg said of Bertuzzi’s five-point effort. “He’s doing a lot of work, I’ve been playing with him the whole playoffs, and played with him a lot over the season, and he doesn’t get much credit. He’s a hard worker, he’s always in front of the net, really keeping guys away from us other guys. So he’s fun to play with.”

On Thursday, Wings coach Mike Babcock decided to replace Filppula with Franzen, and the move paid off.

Bertuzzi, Franzen and Zetterberg combined for 13 points on Thursday.

“It was just one of those nights,” Bertuzzi said. “Everything Mule shot went in, and it was fun. But the night’s over and we got to get ourselves ready for the next one.”

The first goal was originally credited to Franzen, but it was later determined that Bertuzzi had tipped the shot past Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.

Bertuzzi admitted that he knew he had been the last player to touch the puck before it found the back of the net, but joked he feared that fans wouldn’t be happy about him taking the goal from his red-hot teammate.

“As it was going on and he got the fourth, I was like, ‘Jesus, if they announce it, I’m going to get booed out of here,’ ” Bertuzzi laughed. “I was a little reluctant to take it. But yeah, just standing in front of the net it ended up hitting me. Goals are goals, who cares who gets them.”
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