DETROIT – As Johan Franzen goes, the Detroit Red Wings have followed this season.
Franzen scored three goals to help the suddenly potent Red Wings roll to a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Detroit has won two straight with a combined 10 goals after scoring a total of six in a six-game skid following a 5-0 start.
“It’s hard to believe they struggled like that,” said Colorado’s Kyle Quincey, a former Red Wings defenceman. “They’re too good of a team for that.”
They are much better when Franzen produces on offence.
In Detroit’s seven wins, Franzen has eight goals and 13 points. He has been held scoreless in its six losses. The six-foot-three, 223-pound forward known as “Mule” can be dominant when he shoots often, skates hard and plays physical.
“He’s a huge, gifted man,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Franzen, though, is prone to falling into deep slumps that keep him off the score sheet. Since starting strong in the previous 5-0 win in which he had a goal and two assists against Anaheim, Franzen and the Red Wings have gotten into a groove.
“We’ve been more relaxed since scoring the first two goals against Anaheim,” Franzen said. “It seemed like the whole team got a load off our shoulders and we started to play better. We have the skill, but we had a lack of confidence.”
Nicklas Lidstrom started the scoring with a slap shot from the slot off a giveaway midway through the first period.
“When everyone is gripping the stick too hard, Nick is usually the one to step up for us,” Franzen said.
Franzen gave the Red Wings a three-goal lead in the second period and chased goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Dan Cleary scored off his own rebound against Jean-Sebastien Giguere to essentially seal the win with 5:14 left.
Milan Hejduk pulled the Avalanche within two goals a couple minutes later, but Franzen scored an empty-net goal with 31.3 seconds left after Giguere was pulled for an extra skater.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Babcock said. “Our best players have come to life. It was just a matter of time.”
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard made 24 saves. Varlamov gave up three goals on 16 shots, and Giguere had 12 saves.
Colorado (7-7-1) is in a 1-5-1 rut because of its offensive struggles, scoring two goals or fewer in five games during its slide.
“We’ve just got to get out of this funk,” Quincey said.
Gabriel Landeskog got the Avalanche within 3-1 midway through the second period.
The Avalanche dug a hole when defenceman Ryan Wilson sent the puck from behind his net to between the circles, where Lidstrom was waiting to let go his slap shot and score his sixth of the season. Franzen’s first two goals of the night, both on the power play, pushed Detroit’s lead to 3-0.
“Our penalty kill has just got to do a better job,” Avs forward David Jones said. “Every time we take a penalty, they’re scoring.”
Franzen deflected a shot for his first goal, ending an impressive sequence in which he, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Henrik Zetterberg touched the puck in the Colorado zone. He also redirected the puck on a slap pass from Niklas Kronwall in the second period.
“You get down a couple of goals to this team, it’s a tough chore to come back,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “I think we’re frustrated right now. Nothing we can do about it. We put ourselves in this situation.”
NOTES: Franzen has two regular-season hat tricks and three in the playoffs, including two against Colorado in the 2008 post-season. … Gordie Howe watched the game with his son, Mark, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame next week. … Colorado’s only win since Oct. 22 was on Oct. 30 against Los Angeles. … Landeskog was born Nov. 23, 1992, more than a year after the 41-year-old Lidstrom made his NHL debut.