OTTAWA – Johan Franzen has no explanation for his success in Ottawa, but can’t deny he definitely enjoys playing in the nation’s capital.
The Detroit Red Wings’ winger was at his best once again scoring three goals in a 6-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Thursday night.
Franzen, who returned to the Red Wings lineup Wednesday after playing just one of the past 24 games due to a concussion, has previously enjoyed success against the Senators. In February 2011, Franzen scored five goals against the Senators.
“I like playing here,” said Franzen. “We have Erik Karlsson on the other side and we grew up in the same little town so it’s always fun to play him. It’s something special every time. I’m just happy to keep him from the scoreboard. It’s always fun to play him.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock is pleased to see Franzen having success.
“He’s an important player for us,” said Babcock. “He has the ability, he has the touch. Lots of guys play real hard and can’t score (Franzen) can score.”
It appears he also has the ability to get under his opponent’s skin. Ottawa’s Chris Neil went after Franzen late in the game and while nothing came of it Franzen was less than impressed.
“He tried to hit me and he couldn’t move me so I think he got a little upset,” said Franzen. “I have no clue. He usually shows up when the game is over and tries to be the hero. He puts his cape on and goes and flies out there. I don’t know.”
Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar also scored for Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 37 shots.
With the win the Red Wings (28-20-12) have a five-point lead over the Senators (26-23-11) for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“Coming back from the break and you start 2-0 it’s way better than the opposite way,” said Babcock. “We know we’re in a battle for our playoff life. We understand that so getting off to a good start is imperative.”
The Senators had little explanation for their performance.
“It’s an extremely disappointing loss,” said Ottawa captain Jason Spezza. “We knew that it was a very important game for us and to lose it by that score is obviously not what we were looking for.”
Bobby Ryan scored the lone goal for the Senators, who were playing their first game since the Olympic break. Robin Lehner allowed six goals on 15 shots before Andrew Hammond made his NHL debut, stopping all nine shots he faced.
Things fell apart for the Senators in a nine-minute span in the first period.
Ryan had a goal called back after it was ruled that he kicked it in and then the Senators leading goal scorer missed two great chances on the power play.
Things began to unravel after the Red Wings scored on consecutive shots.
Ottawa’s Cody Ceci gave the puck up deep in the Senators’ end as he made a no-look behind-the-back pass that landed right on the stick of Sheahan who ripped a shot past Lehner. Just 29 seconds later Franzen scored his first as he was left all alone to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
Franzen then made it 3-0 with a power-play goal as once again he was left alone, this time on the opposite side of the ice.
Following the game Lehner could not hide his disappointment.
“They got a few goals pretty fast and then it snowballed,” said Lehner. “I think we’ve all got to do better in our zone and I’ve got to do better. It was one of the most toughest games I’ve played personally, but it’s over now. There’s not much to say.”
Detroit made it 4-0 on a delayed penalty call with two minutes remaining in the period. Niklas Kronwall, who finished with three assists, had a shot from just inside the blue-line deflected and ended up on Jurco’s stick, who roofed it over Lehner.
The 18,931 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre were so disappointed they booed the home team off the ice.
Senators coach Paul MacLean had few words to explain his team’s performance.
“We played a lot better than the score maybe indicated, but the score is what it is and you can’t change that,” said MacLean.
When asked who was the best player MacLean couldn’t help but say “Johan Franzen I think. I think we’re all tied for the worst.”
Franzen completed his hat trick early in the second period.
Ryan finally got the Senators on board at the four-minute mark of the second, but any celebration was short-lived as Detroit made it 6-1 as Tatar beat Lehner from in close.
That marked the end of Lehner’s appearance, opening the door for Hammond to make his first NHL appearance. Craig Anderson was unavailable due to the birth of his second child.
Despite the surprise appearance Hammond held his own and made a number of big saves.
“Not letting anything in was a good start,” said Hammond. “Any kid from Canada growing up playing hockey it’s their dream to play in the NHL and it’s pretty special for me to be one of those guys that’s lucky enough now to say I’ve played in the NHL. It’s very special.”
This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams as they split the season series.
Notes: D Patrick Wiercioch, D Joe Corvo and LW Matt Kassian were a healthy scratch for the Senators…RW Patrick Eaves, RW Todd Bertuzzi and RW Daniel Cleary were a healthy scratch for the Red Wings…A number of Canadian Olympians were recognized prior to the game including Detroit head coach Mike Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland. Thursday’s game marked Daniel Alfredsson’s second appearance at Canadian Tire Centre since signing with the Red Wings last summer.