A Mule and a Hossa drove the Detroit Red Wings back to even terms in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Anaheim Ducks.
The foundation for Thursday's 6-3 victory in Game 4 at the Honda Center in Southern California was fashioned around two goals each by right-wingers Johan Franzen and Marian Hossa.
“We kept grinding and putting pucks behind their D, that’s the key,” said Hossa, whose first two goals of the series came late in the second period and snapped a 2-2 tie. “We did lots of good stuff and carried over what we did in the last game. Just kept going at them.”
Franzen on fire
The scoring star of the playoffs the past two springs, Franzen’s outburst gave him 17 goals in his last 18 Stanley Cup games and 19 tallies in his last 24 post-season contests.
Like all Detroit forwards, the man nicknamed "Mule" went hard to the net and supplied the screen on Hossa’s first goal, proving Tomas Holmstrom isn’t the only Red Wing capable of being a disruptive force in front of the opposing net.
“Holmstrom is probably the best player in the league at doing those things,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said, “But it seems Franzen, and now (Tomas) Kopecky, are following that lead from the standpoint of getting in front of the net.”
After another sluggish start, Wings coach Mike Babcock shuffled all four of his lines about 10 minutes into the game and it paid immediate dividends.
He put Valtteri Filppula between Franzen and Hossa and they scored four goals. Babcock also reunited Pavel Datsyuk with Henrik Zetterberg and Holmstrom, while putting Darren Helm between Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson. Each of those lines tallied.
Kopecky played with Kirk Maltby and Jiri Hudler on the revamped fourth line.
“I’m not a big change guy,” Babcock said. “I like to be patient when things are going good and I thought we were playing fine in this series. The way we started (Thursday), I had to do something.
“I had to change it up and for whatever reason, we seemed to get a spark with Filppula on that line. Hoss probably feels like the weight of the world’s off his back and that’s great for him. He’s an elite player and they’re big bodies who can all skate.
“Datsyuk and Zetterberg normally play really well together, so that should be good.”
Ducks in new rows
Reacting to Detroit’s adjustments, Carlyle also made the same switch he turned to in Game 2, flipping right-wingers by moving Ryan Carter up to the top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and dropping Bobby Ryan to the second line with Andrew Ebbett and Teemu Selanne.
“They play the same way,” Perry said of Ryan and Carter. “Ryan goes into the corner and Carts gets pucks and he can skate.”
Carter does tend to play grittier than Ryan and is more responsible defensively.
Looking to rest Getzlaf when the game got out of hand, Carlyle put fourth-line centre Petteri Nokelainen between Perry and Ryan in the third period, a session which saw Getzlaf play barely three minutes.
The Wings believe their deeper bench is starting to wear on the Ducks, who often double-shift their top forward line.
“If it’s going to be a long series it’s going to help us in the long run,” Hossa said.
Wings defenceman Brett Lebda thinks the toll on the Ducks will only grow as the series continues.
“I think it’s going to play to our advantage that we’re so deep,” Lebda said. “The farther we go into this series and the more we get on top of their D and wear them out a little bit, it will be a factor.
“You get worn out when you play in your D zone a lot, so that’s one of our focuses, to play in their zone and make them play defence.”
Carlyle’s post-game comments seemed to indicate that he was seeing signs of mental breakdowns that can be caused by fatigue.
“To me, we made decisions that were ones that we haven’t made in a while,” he said. “We didn’t execute to the level that we have been lately.
“When you turn the puck over the amount of times that we did, it leads to more end-zone time and they got more quality scoring chances.”
Hiller of beans
Jonas Hiller blocked a combined 104 shots in Anaheim’s Game 2 and 3 victories, but he looked to be weary in Game 4. Pucks were leaking through him and he was hooked by Carlyle in favour of Jean-Sebastien Giguere after Samuelsson beat him to make it 5-2 just 2:46 into the third period.
“We got it in, pressured the defence, got lots of shots and got traffic in front of Hiller,” Cleary said.
Carlyle wasn’t impressed by his goalie’s performance, but added that Hiller had plenty of company in the underachieving department.
“The first goal (by Franzen) was a goal that should have never went in the net,” Carlyle said. “It went five hole. We just weren’t good enough as a team and goaltending is part of your team.”
Talking about his fellow Finn, Wings third-line centre Filppula, Selanne saw his words come true when Filppula was moved up a line and produced two assists and a plus-two rating.
“I’d like to see him play more on the top two lines,” Selanne said. “He is a patient guy and he’s waiting his turn and I know when he gets that chance, he’ll be ready.”
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