Johan Franzen recorded a hat trick and Jimmy Howard stopped 24 of 26 shots, as the streaky Detroit Red Wings defeated the Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday night by a 5-2 score. It was the second consecutive Red Wings victory, following six straight losses (0-5-1), which was preceded by five wins to open the season.
While the rivalry between Detroit and Colorado may not carry the same intensity as it once did during the bloody feuds of the 1990s, one of the players still remaining from those days is still making a big difference.
Nicklas Lidstrom, the guaranteed first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who decided to return for a 20th season, scored the first goal of the game. After Avs defenseman Ryan Wilson had blindly thrown the puck up the middle from behind his own net, Lidstrom blasted a slap shot past Semyon Varlamov's stick side 8:54 into the contest. It was the defenseman's sixth goal of the year in what has been yet another excellent offensive season.
As a result of the goal, Lidstrom had been in on nine of the Red Wings last 14 goals (4 G, 5 A).
With Paul Stastny in the penalty box for cross-checking Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg sent a cross-ice pass from the right wing corner to Jiri Hudler at the left circle. Hudler immediately got the puck over to Filppula at the right circle for a one-timer that Franzen deflected past Varlamov for a power play marker. His sixth of the year at 2:36 of period two doubled the Detroit lead to 2-0.
Franzen and Filppula were also in on the next Detroit tally, which again came while the Red Wings were on a man advantage. Filppula hit Niklas Kronwall at the point, and the defenseman waited for Franzen to head to the net. Kronwall sent a slap pass into the slot, where Franzen deftly deflected the puck up and over Varlamov's right shoulder for his second goal of the night to make it a 3-0 Wings' lead at the 6:53 mark of the second period.
The second Franzen goal chased Varlamov, who was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The Avs were finally able to get on the board about a minute and a half later. Red Wings' defender Jonathan Ericsson took a hooking minor to put Colorado on the power play, and rookie Gabriel Landeskog was able to jam a rebound past Howard. It was the fifth goal of the season for Landeskog, who coincidentally hadn't even been born yet when the now 41-year-old Lidstrom entered the League as a rookie in 1991.
Daniel Cleary provided an insurance goal with less than five minutes left in regulation, knocking his own rebound past Giguere for his second goal of the season, and 100th since joining the Red Wings prior to the 2005-06 campaign.
It was an important goal, because the Avalanche would strike back two minutes later. Milan Hejduk, another of the warriors left over from the tail end of the 90's grudge matches between these teams, scored with the man advantage
But with Giguere pulled for an extra attacker, Franzen iced the game with his third of the night and eighth of the season by flipping a backhander into the empty cage to seal the deal at 5-2 with just 32 seconds remaining.
Colorado dropped to 7-7-1 overall, and just 1-5-1 in their last seven games, a stretch that has seen them manage just 16 goals - six of which came in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars last week.