ST. LOUIS – Lately, Johan Franzen has become an unlikely go-to guy on the NHL’s best team.
Franzen has 23 goals, but 11 have come in the past 11 games, and his power-play tally snapped a third-period tie in the Detroit Red Wings’ 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. It’s the third game-winner this month for the 28-year-old right wing, and seventh overall.
“Once it starts rolling, the puck keeps coming to you,” Franzen said. “That’s how it gets once in a while, you get lucky and everything is going your way. Let’s hope it stays that way as long as possible.”
Henrik Zetterberg added his 150th career goal for the Red Wings, who have won four in a row. Coach Mike Babcock said the one-goal victory was good practice for the future.
“There’s no practice that I can run that gives you exactly what it’s like in the playoffs,” Babcock said. “You’re either up one or down one or tied going into the third every single night, that’s what it is. That means be poised in your own zone, don’t give up anything, be real patient and then drive to the net as much as you can.”
Andy McDonald scored in the second period for the Blues, who played their first home game in 22 days following a season-long nine-game trip. St. Louis, eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight season on Monday, is 1-7-2 in its past 10 games.
“Our situation is we’re out of the playoffs but there’s a lot on the line for everyone in this locker room,” McDonald said. “We want to play hard for our fans, we want to give them something to cheer about.”
Franzen has 15 points overall during the 11-game stretch. He totalled 18 points in the first 56 games while playing on the third line, and has thrived on the top power-play unit with Tomas Holmstrom sidelined by a groin strain.
“Obviously he’s a real good player and he earned the right to play more just by playing well but also by guys getting injured,” Babcock said. “He’s got a lot of confidence and we’re a better team because of his development. He’s a big, big man who’s talented.”
Chris Osgood made 17 saves for the Red Wings, who secured their third straight 50-win season on Sunday and lead the NHL with 108 points. They’ve won nine of their past 11, outscoring the opposition 39-23.
The Blues have lost their past three by one goal and have played 35 one-goal games overall, going 14-9-12.
“As I was telling the guys the other day, I used to think I was starting to look like my father,” coach Andy Murray said. “The last two times I’ve looked like my grandfather.
“It’s a grind but that’s my responsibility to stay positive every day.”
The Red Wings dominated in the third period, outshooting the Blues 12-3, and quickly capitalized when Paul Kariya was whistled for hooking. The puck took a high bounce after Manny Legace stopped Nicklas Lidstrom’s shot from the left circle and Franzen was ready when it came down for a quick tap-in at 8:22.
“It hit me in the shoulder, hit me in the face and then dropped straight down,” Legace said. “It’s just unfortunate that it drops straight down onto their guy’s stick.”
Zetterberg’s team-leading 41st goal, a backhand on the rebound of a Dan Cleary drive at 15:49, was the only scoring of the first period. Zetterberg has five goals and three assists in his past five games.
McDonald stole a clearing pass just outside the blue line and skated in alone on Osgood at 2:36 of the second for his 16th of the season to tie it at 1.
Notes: Cleary returned after missing 19 games with a broken jaw sustained at Toronto on Feb. 9. He had surgery on Monday to remove wires holding the jaw together. … Holmstrom missed his eighth game with a groin strain, while Blues RW Dan Hinote (stomach) missed his 14th game and D Jay McKee (foot) missed his third. … McDonald had been limited to one goal in his previous five games. … Red Wings D Chris Chelios played in his 1,612th game, tying Ray Bourque for seventh on the career list. … Kariya has no goals in his past 20 games and only four in his past 40.