DETROIT – Johan Franzen usually blends in behind the Detroit Red Wings’ other stars.
Unless it’s the playoffs.
Franzen scored his seventh goal of the post-season, helping Detroit beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 Sunday. The defending Stanley Cup champions’ dominating performance gave them a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Franzen led the way as he did during the playoffs last year and again the past few weeks.
His 20 goals since the start of last year’s title run are the most in a 25-game post-season span since Theo Fleury had a similar outburst a decade ago, according to STATS LLC.
The Swede acknowledge being amazed by his scoring tear.
“Maybe I’m a little bit surprised,” he said.
Game 6 will be Tuesday night at Anaheim.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said his team didn’t play desperately Sunday, adding that has to change to shift the series back to Detroit for Game 7.
“We just have to get emotionally involved in the game right from the drop of the puck,” Carlyle said.
The Ducks also will have to physically engage the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Franzen, whose nickname is Mule.
“He’s a big guy,” Carlyle said. “He’s probably not even filled out to his full size. The difference in his size in between this year and last year is quite noticeable.
“He’s strong on the puck. He’s finding holes.”
Franzen scored the first goal Sunday at 3:23 of the second period. He skated up the right boards, swooped into the circle and flicked a wrist shot high on Jonas Hiller after many of Detroit’s first 16 shots were low.
“We’re giving him a lot of shots every night, so maybe we’re wearing him out a little bit,” Franzen said. “I think it’s more that we know where to shoot on him.”
Franzen, who has six goals in six games, scored twice in Game 4 to help Detroit even the series in Anaheim.
“When we keep the speed up and put the pucks behind their ‘D,’ it’s going to be hard for them to create something,” he said. “If we keep doing that the next game, I think we have a good chance to win.”
Regardless of the outcome Tuesday, the odds are in Detroit’s favour.
“Game 5s are huge games,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “The last time we played those guys, they ended up beating us and winning the series.
“It gives you more confidence going into their building, but obviously as much as the past can help you out, this is a totally different situation.”
In the 2007 Western Conference finals, the Ducks won at Detroit to take a 3-2 lead in the series en route to the Stanley Cup title.
Franzen was a role player back then, scoring three times in 18 games. He closed strong toward the end of the 2007-08 regular season, finishing with 27 goals, then was almost unstoppable in the post-season.
Franzen scored 13 times in the playoffs last year, matching a franchise record for one post-season, despite missing six games because blood pooled between his skull and brain.
“Mule’s game is suited for any time of year,” Babcock said.
Detroit’s Jiri Hudler, Darren Helm and Henrik Zetterberg scored after Franzen and Chris Osgood had 16 saves.
Ryan Whitney scored late in the second period and Hiller stopped 34 shots, giving the Ducks a chance until Helm made it 3-1 with 3:08 left. Zetterberg added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Like Carlyle, Ducks defenceman James Wisniewski was disappointed with the team’s intensity.
“We played like Game 38 of the regular season,” Wisniewski said.
Notes: Franzen became the 11th player to score at least 20 goals in a 25-game span in the playoffs since 1988. … D Derek Meech and LW Justin Abdelkader made their post-season debuts, replacing D Chris Chelios (healthy scratch) and LW Tomas Kopecky (facial injuries). … Wisniewski played after missing Game 4 due to a bruised lung sustained in the previous game. … The Red Wings recalled tough guy Darren McCarty after the game, perhaps to protect teammates if fists start flying in Game 6.