DETROIT – The Mule-led Detroit Red Wings are kicking the Colorado Avalanche when they’re down.
Johan Franzen scored three times to lift Detroit to a 5-1 victory Saturday over the banged-up Avs, giving the NHL’s top-seeded team a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal.
The six-foot-three, 220-pound centre – known as “Mule” – redirected a shot in front of the net early in the game, scored on a wraparound in the second period and whacked a rebound out of the air in the third.
It was his first career hat trick in the NHL, and first since the Swede was a teenager.
Darren McCarty was the last Red Wing to score three times in the playoffs, pulling off the feat against the Avs in the 2002 conference final en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
“Sorry about that, Mac,” Franzen joked. “What can I say? I got lucky.”
The humble player had two goals and an assist in Detroit’s series-opening win.
“He’s got a hot stick right now,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “Everything he touches seems to be going in.”
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Colorado.
Chris Osgood made 19 saves for the Red Wings.
Colorado’s Jose Theodore gave up four goals on 20 shots and was pulled for a second straight game. Peter Budaj stopped all 12 shots he faced in the second period and finished with 19 saves.
The sixth-seeded Avs are counting on two off days and home ice helping them when the series resumes.
“We’ll get to regroup after a tough couple games here,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully going home and having a couple days will give us some momentum.”
The Avs were without centre Peter Forsberg (groin), defenceman Scott Hannan (lower-body injury) and winger Wojtek Wolski (upper-body injury) in Game 2.
“If we use that as an excuse, we have to do something else with our lives,” said Colorado’s Ian Laperriere, who scored early in the third period. “Every team goes through that.”
Forsberg skated before Saturday’s game, but was scratched from the lineup.
“He knows his body and said he was unable to go,” Quenneville said.
Hannan was out because of a lower-body injury from Thursday night. Wolski is not expected to return in the second-round series because of an upper-body injury that knocked him out of Game 1.
Theodore was back on the ice after being replaced and sent to the hotel during the series opener because he was sick, but he didn’t last long in Game 2.
“You need to keep the score close and I didn’t do that,” Theodore said.
Quenneville said he does not expect to make a goaltender change.
The Red Wings chased Theodore midway through the second period after Franzen scored his first two goals and Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg added goals.
At the other end, Detroit didn’t give the Avs much of a chance to have success.
Its swarming defence held Colorado to four shots in the first, six in the second and 10 in the third as it opened up the offence to take more chances trying to come back.
After trailing by three goals in the series opener, the Avs rallied to pull within a goal before losing 4-3.
“We wanted to build off of what happened last game, but it didn’t happen,” Colorado star Joe Sakic said. “Obviously a poor performance on our part. They had the legs.”
Notes: Budaj stopped all 20 shots in faced in his playoff debut in Game 1. … Detroit’s Darren McCarty and Colorado’s Cody McCormick dropped their gloves and sticks for a fight shortly after the Red Wings went ahead 4-0. “Punches thrown, a lot of missed punches, lot of rust,” McCarty said. “It was good for the fans.” … After an octopus was thrown on the ice before the game, Colorado’s Cody McLeod picked it up, shook it in the direction of Detroit’s Dallas Drake and threw it off the ice toward the Avs’ dressing room. Why? “Just to let them know they were going to be in a battle,” McLeod said. The NHL has threatened to fine the Red Wings if Zamboni driver Al Sobotka picks up octopi on the ice and twirls them, following a tradition in Detroit. … Red Wings D Brad Stuart played after missing a game to be with his wife for the birth of their son. … For the first time in the playoffs, Colorado didn’t score the first goal.