|Johan Franzen admires his second-period, power-play goal that tied the score at 2-2 against the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings) |
WINNIPEG, MB – On a night when so much attention was given to a pair of rookies for their youthfulness and energy, it was a cagey veteran who gave the Red Wings a needed boost Thursday night.
Johan Franzen’s power-play goal provided the Red Wings somewhat of an emotional lift, wiping out a two-goal deficit in the second period.
“The biggest thing with Mule – I say it all the time – he’s always got the ability, it’s just his skating,” coach Mike Babcock said. “If he’s skating he’s good. If he’s not he’s not as good, so that’s the challenge for him to bring the energy and skate every day.”
Franzen had his motor running on the tying goal on a red Wings’ power play at 12:52 of the second period. The power forward gained speed as he skated through the neutral zone before putting a move on Mark Stuart that caused the Jets’ defenseman to fall, leaving Franzen with an unimpeded sprint to goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
“I wanted to take (Stuart) inside, and I guess he thought I was going to do it too,” Franzen said. “But then again I think he kind of toe-picked or something and fell for some reason.”
As for his goal, Franzen initially thought pass, but reconsidered.
“Yeah, I was thinking of passing it to (Darren) Helm,” Franzen said, “but he pushed the other D back so he made some room for me there.”
Winnipeg regained their lead before the second intermission; however, the Wings overcame that deficit by scoring two third-period goals just 2:10 apart en route to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory at MTS Centre. It was Detroit’s second third-period comeback win in regulation this season, the first since mounting a three-goal third at Washington on Oct. 29.
It was a true character win for the Red Wings and a dynamite goal by a Franzen, who now has four goals and four assists in the past nine games since returning from a groin injury at the start of November.
“A big-time play coming through the neutral zone,” Babcock said of Franzen’s play. “I thought we made a good adjustment, (assistant coach) Jim Hiller did, after the first period, we couldn’t get in on our entries on the power play. We were too tight together. Once we spread out and got a little more speed and Mule obviously has the great hands.”
Detroit’s power play continues to produce, netting a goal on four chances Thursday. The Red Wings have registered a power-play goal in three straight games, and six in the past seven while going 10 for 31 on the man advantage during that span.
“I like the team. I think we’ve got a chance to be a good team, I keep telling the guys that,” Babcock said. “We have a chance to be an every-day team. We haven’t quite figured it out how to do that every day, yet, but we’re just like most teams in the league; we’re a work in progress. We’re trying to get better.”
The difference of the game came late in the third period when the Red Wings got goals from Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Tatar in span of 2:10. A great play by Abdelkader set up Tatar’s second goal of the night, but this one gave the Red Wings their first lead of the game, an all-important 4-3 margin with 4:40 left in regulation. Abdelkader’s goal – his sixth of the season – tied the score at 3-3 at the 13-minute mark.
On the winning goal, Abdelkader swept a pass from below the goal line out in front of the Jets’ crease, where Tatar fired a one-timer that traveled between the Stuart’s legs and behind Pavelec.
“It’s always nice, especially the feeling, like we want to be the winner, want to pick up the points, it’s nice to score and get us on the board,” Tatar said. “I just saw Abby beat his guy off the boards and we out-numbered the guys there and tried to throw it like to my stick and I was just in the right spot and put it in.”
There was plenty of hullaballoo at Thursday’s morning skate about rookies Petr Mrazek and Xavier Ouellet – both were making their season debuts against the Jets.
Ouellet, a 6-foot-1 defenseman, got his feet wet in the NHL last season, playing in five games with the Red Wings, which included an elimination game in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against Boston.
“(Babcock) gave me his trust for that game, so that meant a lot for me,” Ouellet said Thursday morning. “It was really exciting and a great experience for me. Helped me a lot to realize at the end of the day it’s the same hockey game. Whatever pressure is there it stays the same game and you got to focus on the same things.”
Ouellet was paired with Brian Lashoff on Thursday, the same defensive partner he had in Game 5 in Boston. Ouellet finished Thursday’s game with a plus-1 rating and 15:24 of ice time on 22 shifts.
Thursday was the second time that Ouellet and Mrazek were in the Wings’ lineup together. The first was in Detroit’s 3-0 season-finale victory in St. Louis last April.
Despite the three goals allowed, without the job that Mrazek did in net, the Jets could have built a much bigger lead, especially in the second period when they came at the young goalie in waves.
“I thought he was very good. I thought he was jittery like the rest of us early, and then he really got going and made some good plays and he supports the rush and he’s a confident kid, knows how to play,” Babcock said. “Mrazek was great early, his puck handling was good. He got caught deep on the one goal, I think the third goal, but even in the end when it’s six on five he plays the puck so good that we were able to get it back a number of times just because he was able to get out and play it.”
However, Mrazek’s shining moment early in the first period when he made a superior leg save on Andrew Ladd, who busted through the Wings’ zone and sent a backhander on net. Mrazek made another stellar save, stopping Blake Wheeler who danced around Niklas Kronwall before shipping a shot on goal with the Jets holding on to a two-goal edge.
“In the second they came hard. First 10 minutes, they were throwing everything on the net,” said Mrazek, who made 28 saves. “You have to still stay positive. … When Tats and Mule tied the game in the second it was a new game.”