Johan Franzen, left, and Marian Hossa, the two scoring stars of the game, celebrate a goal by Franzen in the first period. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
This time, no doubt. This time, Marian Hossa ripped one shot into the net, and then another, and the only whistle was the low phew of relief by the Red Wings.
No controversy and no contest.
The Wings stopped waiting around and finally unleashed Thursday night, and with a terrific performance by a new line combination, they found their scoring stars. Hossa and Johan "Mule" Franzen each scored twice and the Wings rebounded nicely with a 6-3 victory over the Ducks to tie their playoff series 2-2.
This was the response the defending champs absolutely had to deliver after the crushing loss the other night, when Hossa's apparent tying goal was waved off after the ref lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle. It was a staggering call that could have altered the series for good, if the Wings let it.
Not this night. And frankly, I expected this forceful, poised response because it's hard to imagine the Wings digging a 3-1 deficit, and hard to imagine Hossa staying quiet for much longer. I don't know if the Wings seized control of the series -- the games have been too tight to say that -- but they sure appeared to solve some issues heading into Game 5 Sunday in Detroit.
For one, they solved Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, who was very weak before getting pulled in the third period. And thanks to a savvy line juggle by Mike Babcock, they addressed the riddle of their scoring woes. Babcock put Franzen alongside Hossa and Valtteri Filppula and the result was stunning.
The Mule was tremendous again, and with six goals this postseason, he has become the Wings' premier big-game gun. He scored their first two Thursday night after yet another inexplicable slow start by the Wings. (Hmm, they did get the memo about start times, didn't they?) The Ducks' Corey Perry scored 42 seconds into the game, and if I'd opened a window in my house and listened closely, I'm sure I'd have heard the gurgle of throats tightening across Metro Detroit.
The Wings didn't buckle and Franzen and Hossa took over, helped by Filppula's deft passing. It was a sight the Wings had to see, as Hossa collected his first points of the series. And trust me, if he gets going and Pavel Datsyuk follows, the Wings could start rolling.
Oh, the Ducks won't go away, and Perry, who scored twice, and Ryan Getzlaf are still causing all sorts of problems. Anaheim pressed hard in the third period, but all of a sudden, Chris Osgood looks like the hotter goalie, making several huge saves and stopping 25 shots overall. He was clutch.
Mule and Hoss
But this night was about a Mule and a big Hoss. Franzen has 19 goals in the past two playoffs, the most of any player in the NHL. He scores so many ways, it's hard to stop him. His goal late in the first period, which put the Wings ahead 2-1, was a perfect deflection of a Niklas Kronwall shot, and that's the underrated element of Franzen's game. It's not the Mule's big feet; it's his quick hands.
This is Hossa's first trip through the postseason with the Wings so no one could be sure how he'd react to adversity. He had the tying goal wiped out in Game 3 on a horrible call and he was scoreless in the series. And he was getting banged heavily by the Ducks.
What Hossa did was clutch and telling. He got up off the ice and kept firing, and his whipping shot on a power-play late in the second period was classic, and gave the Wings a 4-2 lead.
Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg (empty-netter) scored in the third period, completing a response by the Wings that was thorough and timely. Enough of the bells and whistles, right? After three tight games in which their stars hadn't scored much, the Wings put away the pop shots and loaded up the big guns. If they plan to wear the Ducks down, this was exactly the way to do it.