DETROIT – Johan Franzen doubled his previous playoff scoring total in one game.
Perfect timing for the Detroit Red Wings.
Franzen had a natural hat trick in a 3:26 span of the first period, scored a fourth goal in the third, and set a team playoff record with six points as Detroit stayed alive with a 7-1 rout of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“Hopefully, I can get some confidence and the team can get some confidence,” Franzen said. “I’ve been struggling on the goal-scoring side.”
Franzen had just two goals in the first 10 playoff games. The burly forward known as “Mule” scored 25 times the previous two postseasons for the two-time defending Western Conference champions.
“Mule is one of those guys – like (Joe) Pavelski – when you get hot, you just shoot the puck,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
San Jose will host Game 5 on Saturday night with another chance to advance to hockey’s final four for the second time in franchise history and first since 2004.
“Maybe this spanking will wake us up to know we’re not out of the woods,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “I’m saying it. We have to respond to it.”
Franzen was originally credited with scoring the first goal 5:40 in, but the goal was changed to Todd Bertuzzi. That prevented Franzen from tying the NHL playoff record with four goals in a period.
Valtteri Filppula put Detroit ahead 5-0 late in the first period on a shot that went off San Jose defenceman Douglas Murray and effectively ended goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s night.
Nabokov made just four saves in the first period and was replaced by Thomas Greiss, who let the second shot he faced get past him off Brian Rafalski’s one-timer.
Detroit scored six straight goals in the first 23:05 of the game, a flurry of unanswered goals in the second-fastest stretch to start an NHL playoff game. Montreal scored six 21:19 into a 1954 playoff game before Boston had a goal.
“We weren’t ready to play this game,” Nabokov said. “We need to get that desperation in our game.”
Dany Heatley scored for San Jose on a 5-on-3 power play with 48.5 seconds left in the second period to make it 6-1.
Jimmy Howard was solid, making 28 saves, after three straight shaky performances. The Sharks scored four goals in each of their first three wins in the series.
“He played well early when he had to,” Babcock said.
Franzen, who had two assists, broke the team playoff record of five points that Steve Yzerman and Norm Ullman shared. He tied the team mark for goals in a playoff game, matching the record Carl Liscombe set in 1945 and Ted Lindsay equalled in 1955.
Anaheim’s Joffrey Lupul was the last player to score four goals in an NHL playoff game in 2006 against Colorado.
The six-foot-three, 222-pound Franzen almost set an NHL playoff record for quickest, three-goal flurry. Tim Kerr of the Flyers scored three of his four goals 3:24 apart in a period on April 13, 1985, against the New York Rangers.
“He came to play,” McLellan said of Franzen. “He’s a huge man and that’s why they call him Mule. That’s not something we’re not aware of. We have players that can do that, too, but they just have to bring it.”
The night wasn’t perfect for Detroit because defenceman Brad Stuart left the game due to a lower body injury in the first period. Babcock expects him to play in Game 5.
NOTES: The game got very chippy in the second and third periods, leading to 10-minute misconduct calls against San Jose’s Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe along with Detroit’s Kris Draper. … The game potentially was the last one at Joe Louis Arena because the Red Wings’ lease is expiring. The team is considering moving to The Palace of Auburn Hillls, the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.