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When Mule's hot, Wings win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen had a goal and assist on seven shots in leading the Red Wings to a 5-2 win over Dallas Saturday night (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – The Mule is heating up again.

Johan Franzen scored the 30th game-winning goal of his career, lifting the Red Wings to a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.

“He’s really hot right now, and he’s a streaky player,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We just want to give him the puck and he’s doing a really good job.”

Prior to training camp, coach Mike Babcock challenge Franzen to have a career year, and even said following Friday’s 3-0 win over Edmonton that the Wings’ big power forward, “Should be one of the best power forwards in the league because of his hands, because of his skating and he knows how to play. The challenge for him every night is to skate and be physical. If he skates and is physical the rest looks after itself. He's got one of the best shots in the league and can wire it like nobody.”

The Mule’s shot was on display Saturday, as he wired seven of them at Stars’ goalie Andrew Raycroft. In the 59 career games that Franzen has fired five or more shots on goal, he has scored 46 goals in 32 of those games – that’s an astonishing 54.2% rate.

“Mule's one of those guys that has to decide if he's going to be a great player in the league or a good player in the league for a long, long time,” Babcock said. “If he wants to be a great player then you have to call on yourself every single night. The great players dig in every night.”

Franzen’s goal at 3:47 of the third was the first of three-goal outburst for the Wings in the period. Franzen now has nine points (five goals, four assists), 20 shots and a plus-8 rating in the last four games.

“Mule's been playing great for us,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who also had a goal in Saturday’s win. “That whole line has been great for us, with Hank and Fil.”

Valtteri Filppula collected two more assists Saturday, giving him a team-leading 10.

TRUE SACRIFICE: Wings defenseman Ian White made a gutsy save with his face that preserve the Wings’ one-goal lead early in the third period.

With the Stars threatening deep in the Wings’ end, Stars forward Jamie Benn fired a shot from just outside of the crease. But with goalie Jimmy Howard unable to get into position, White dive across the crease and stopped Benn from tying the game at 3-3.

White left the game and did not return. He needed several stitches to close a gash underneath his right eye. Afterwards he did not speak to the media.

“I hope he’s OK, but that takes guts to want to do that,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “It was a big play in the game; they were still in it at that point. It was a big play for us.”

Adding insult to injury, White didn’t receive credit for a blocked shot on the play. He finished with one block that he earned in the first period.

“I think it's just a mindset of stopping the puck from going over the goal line,” said Kronwall, of White’s heroics. “That was a huge block for us, obviously. That was a key moment of the game.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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