The Detroit Red Wings forward known as "the Mule" had the goal-scoring touch of a donkey for most of these playoffs.
But Johan Franzen rediscovered his goal-scoring ways on Thursday night. He scored four times and chipped in two assists as the Red Wings lived another day with an impressive 7-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks at Joe Louise Arena.
The Sharks still lead the series 3-1, but they are well aware of the Red Wings prowess when facing elimination this season. Not only did they reel off a league-best 16-3-2 post Olympic break record to make the playoffs, they now have outscored the opposition 13-2 in their two elimination games this spring.
"That's a good sign because we have to keep winning here," said Franzen, who became the 14th player in NHL history to check in with five points in a period in Stanley Cup history.
The productive evening for Franzen was a welcome development for the Red Wings. The 30-year-old Swede has been Detroit's go-to guy in the past three post-seasons. But even though he has points in each of his 11 playoff games this spring, he had scored only twice in the previous 10 matches.
"The Mule had some good jump and everything he was shooting was going in," Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi said. "It's just one game though. Now we have to get back over there and continue to do the same thing."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock moved Franzen from his usual spot on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom to a position alongside Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg. The threesome checked in with five goals and eight assists.
Bertuzzi had a goal and four assists, while Zetterberg had two helpers.
"I thought we were moving around a bit more, not standing still, supporting each other and getting free that way," Bertuzzi said.
Franzen has a remarkable 35 goals and 68 points in 74 playoff games for Detroit.
"He came to play," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who spent three seasons as a Red Wings assistant coach. "He's a huge man, that's why they call him the Mule. He worked hard, shot the puck and it went in the net. But that's something we're not aware of."
Franzen almost had five goals. Instead, Detroit's first one was later credited to Bertuzzi because Franzen's screen shot did glance off his linemate. Franzen then scored a hat trick in a span of three minutes and 26 seconds, two seconds shy of the Stanley Cup playoff record set by Philadelphia Flyers forward Tim Kerr in April 1985.
The Red Wings held a 5-0 lead after the first period and increased the advantage to 6-0 early in the second period. The six goals were scored in the opening 23:05 — the second fastest six unanswered goals to start a Stanley Cup playoff game behind Montreal's record of 21:19 in a game in March 1954.
The impressive beginning certainly made for a festive atmosphere among the 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena. There was plenty of singing and revelry and hope that they will see their heroes return for a sixth game on Monday night. But it was all business in the Red Wings' dressing room. Even Franzen barely cracked a smile after his big night.
"Well, it's different because we were down three games in the series," he said. "We've won this game and we have to win the next one. So you can't get too excited."
The Red Wings are trying to become only the third team to win a series after being down 3-0. The last team to accomplish the feat was the New York Islanders in 1975. But the Sharks know they will have to be a lot better when the series returns to San Jose on Saturday.
"If I had to go in [the dressing room] right now and talk to them, shame on them," McLellan said. "They saw the same game that I watched and we're all disappointed. I haven't used that word in a good month with our hockey club, so we're all disappointed.
"Not so much that we lost but, one, the fact we weren't prepared and we knew what was coming and said all the right things but didn't go out and respond to it. Two, we got away from our game and when it wasn't going our way, we didn't stick with it."
The Red Wings lost top-four defenceman Brad Stuart to an upper-body injury in the first period, when he was crunched along the boards near the San Jose blue-line by Sharks captain Rob Blake.
But Babcock expects Stuart back for the next game.