BY DOUG HARRISON — Johan Franzen is doing his best to make the ailing Colorado Avalanche trio of Peter Forsberg, Wojtek Wolski and Scott Hannan feel much worse.
The third-year centre posted his first career playoff hat trick to lead the Detroit Red Wings to their fifth straight win at home in this year's NHL playoffs, 5-1 on Saturday afternoon.
"He's got a hot stick right now," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said of Franzen. "Everything he touches seems to be going in."
The six-foot-three, 220-pound Franzen — nicknamed "Mule" by former teammate Steve Yzerman — has 22 goals in his last 24 games, including five in this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal, which Detroit leads 2-0.
Franzen and company took advantage of the undisciplined and depleted Avalanche, who felt the loss of Wolski (upper-body injury), Hannan (lower-body injury) and Forsberg. The latter tested his injured groin in Saturday's warmup before declaring himself unfit to play.
Franzen scored the first of his two power-play goals of the day at 4:22 of the first period when he redirected Mikael Samuelsson's shot past Colorado goalie Jose Theodore.
With the goal, Franzen, 28, surpassed his point total from 18 playoff games last spring (seven).
The big Swede made it 2-0 Red Wings early in the second with Avalanche forward Ben Guite in the penalty box for delay of game. Skating out from behind the Colorado net, Franzen fended off defenceman Ruslan Salei and back-handed a shot for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Rare hat trick
Franzen capped his first hat-trick performance since he was a teenager at 8:47 of the third period. After following Henrik Zetterberg to the Colorado net on a short-handed rush, he beat Peter Budaj with his own rebound for his team-leading seventh goal and 10th point of the 2008 post-season.
Current Red Wings forward Darren McCarty was the most recent Detroit player to notch a hat trick against the Avalanche. It came in the 2002 West final en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
"Sorry about that, Mac," Franzen joked. "What can I say? I got lucky."
Franzen also scored twice in Thursday's series opener, including the winner, to give him three game-winners among his seven goals. In March, Franzen scored 14 times, and broke Gordie Howe's franchise mark with six winners among them.
Valtteri Filppula and Zetterberg also scored Saturday for the Red Wings, who improved to a league-best 34-9-3 on home ice this season.
Zetterberg chased Theodore for the second consecutive contest with Detroit's fourth goal on 20 shots.
In Game 1, the Avalanche netminder was pulled early in the second period and sent back to the team's hotel with flu-like symptoms. Peter Budaj, who began the season as the team's starting puckstopper, stopped all 20 shots he faced in his playoff debut.
Budaj was solid again Saturday, turning away 19 of 20 shots, but Quenneville said he doesn't expect to make a goaltending change for Game 3 Tuesday in Colorado (8 p.m. MT).
Budaj was particularly sharp in the second period with the Avalanche parading to the box following five consecutive minor penalty calls. The Red Wings came up empty on back-to-back 5-on-3 advantages and a 5-on-4 power play for 80 seconds.
Colorado tough guy Ian Laperriere spoiled Chris Osgood's shutout bid early in the third period with his first goal of these Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Avalanche 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 Red Wings' swarming defence held Colorado to four shots in the first period, six in the second and 10 in the third as it opened up the offence to take more chances trying to come back.
Trailing 4-1, the Avalanche had a glorious opportunity to close the gap in the third when Detroit took four penalties in the final 20 minutes. But the visitors couldn't beat Osgood and finished 0-for-5 on the day with the man advantage.
Brad Stuart returned to the Red Wings blue-line and finished with a plus-1 rating after missing a game to be with his wife Melissa, who gave birth to a boy (Logan Michael) on Wednesday night in San Jose, Calif.