February 27, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Red Wings 6, Senators 1

Neat trick: Johan Franzen's three-goal night powers Red Wings over Senators

Ottawa, Ontario – Maybe that Olympic break came at just the right time for the Red Wings.

It certainly appears to have helped Johan Franzen.

Something definitely helped, considering the way the Red Wings looked the last two games, including Thursday’s resounding 6-1 victory in Ottawa, with Franzen getting a hat trick.

Coupled with an overtime win in Montreal the night before, it was a successful way for the Red Wings to begin a post-Olympic push to the playoffs.

"Our goalie (Jonas Gustavsson) was very good; we weren't that great but we scored goals," coach Mike Babcock said. "We were much better last night (against Montreal). But in the end, you have to outscore the other team. The power play and Mule were very good and we got a big lead."

With the victories, the Red Wings (28-20-12, 68 points) have opened a five-point lead on Ottawa (26-23-11, 63 points) for the final wild-card spot.

"You start 2-0, it's better than the opposite way and you're chasing," Babcock said. "We know we're in a battle for our playoff life. We understand that. So getting off to a good start is imperative for us."

There's something about playing here in Canada's capital that appeals to Franzen. On top of his three-goal night Thursday, Franzen scored five goals in this arena on Feb. 2, 2011, in a Red Wings victory.

And if you take it back to the last four games in this building, Franzen has a mind-boggling 11 goals.

Franzen had two assists in Wednesday's victory in Montreal, giving him five points in the last two games.

"Who knows?" Franzen said when he was asked why he's so successful in Ottawa. "I like playing here. Eric Karlsson (the Ottawa all-star defenseman) plays here and we grew up in the same small town together (in Sweden). It's fun to come in here and play against him. It's always special."

Franzen had to withstand a late confrontation with Ottawa enforcer Chris Neil, who tried to goad Franzen into a fight.

"He likes to step up when the game is over," Franzen said.

But Franzen wasn't alone in the offensive department. In fact, the entire kid line of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar each added a goal, with Tatar and Jurco adding an assist, as well.

Niklas Kronwall assisted on three goals and Gustav Nyquist had two assists, as many players enjoyed bumps on their season statistics.

Pavel Datsyuk didn't have a point, and also didn't play the third period with the Red Wings leading 6-1 as a precaution against aggravating his knee.

One of the key Red Wings, though, despite the offense, was Gustavsson stopping 37 shots and earning his first victory since Jan. 24 against Montreal, and in his first start since Jan. 28. Gustavsson stopped 16 in the first period.

"That helps when you get a good start like that," Gustavsson said. "When you get some shots early on and make some saves, it gets you going and you can build on that throughout the game."

It was a completely different kind of evening for starting Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner, who was replaced after allowing Tatar's goal – the Red Wings' sixth goal on only 15 shots. Ottawa goalie Andrew Hammond, making his NHL debut, replaced Lehner and stopped all 11 shots he saw.

The type of evening this was going to be for the Red Wings was made clear early on.

Sheahan gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 10:59 of the first period, his fourth goal. Coming out of the penalty box, Sheahan received a gift drop pass from Senators defenseman Cody Ceci and fired a shot past Lehner, beginning the offensive charge.

After a pair of Franzen goals -- one on the power play on a nice set up from Daniel Alfredsson -- Jurco gave the Red Wings a 4-0 lead with another fluke goal.

Kronwall's shot from the top of the slot was deflected and redirected to Jurco on the side, all alone, who found an opening to the side of Lehner at 18 minutes of the first period. It was Jurco's fourth goal this season.



Johan Franzen, left, goes for the traditional hockey hug with Pavel Datsyuk, center, and Gustav Nyquist after one of his two first-period goals. / Fred Chartrand / Associated Press