By Stu Hackel
It's probably an overstatement to say that Groundhog Day 2011 will be remembered forever by hockey fans as the night when the Red Wings' Johan Franzen scored five goals in Ottawa and the Penguins' Brent Johnson one-punched the Islanders' Rick DiPietro in a dying seconds goalie fight. But it is fair to say that this daily double made for one of the season's more noteworthy evenings.
First to "The Mule," as Franzen is known by his teammates. He netted five of his team's seven goals in a wild 7-5 win over the Senators (the other pair were scored 13 seconds apart by Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom, and here's video of that). Franzen had previous hat tricks, three in fact, but all were in the playoffs, including a four-goal game last spring against the Sharks (video). So his teammates have seen him explode before.
"When he got the first two quick, a few of us on the bench said this could be his night," Zetterberg said. "It's fun to see when everything goes in for him. He's a streaky goal scorer and we know that."
You've also got to credit Zetterberg, Detroit's top scorer, who picked up three assists and was particularly brilliant picking out Franzen as the late man on his second goal. Zetterberg has, perhaps, been the Wings' MVP in this injury-plagued season.
"He took upon himself to step up," coach Mike Babcock said after the game (quoted in The Detroit News). "He's always a determined guy." In the Wings' last 25 games, Zetterberg has failed to register a point in only five and has seven goals and 24 assists in that span.
The last Wings player to score four goals in the regular season was Brendan Shanahan in March 2001. Franzen's final tally, into an empty net, gave the Wings their first five-goal game since Sergei Fedorov did it on Dec. 26, 1996, and it caused the fine Kukla's Korner Red Wings blogger George Malik to tweet "Sergei Fedorov technically trumps Johan Franzen: Sergei's 5 against the Washington Capitals were all with goalies in the net (shh)."
Franzen is the first NHLer to score five in a game since Marian Gaborik, then with the Wild, did it against the Rangers (his current team) on Dec. 20, 2007. Before that, the last to do it was Fedorov. Here's a list of all the five-goal scorers in NHL history (and those who have done even better) from Joe Pelletier's Greatest Hockey Legends blog (thanks to Greg Wyshynski who tweeted the link).
Detroit is getting healthy now, with Dan Cleary back, and Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Brad Stuart skating again -- and SI.com's Adrian Dater writes that GM Ken Holland considers the team's wave of injuries to be a blessing in disguise. The Wings will be tough down the stretch, especially if the Mule stays hot.
DiPietro knuckles down: In Pittsburgh, with only seconds remaining in the Penguins' 3-0 win over the Isles, Matt Cooke, who has been known to collide with a goalie or two, came a bit too close to DiPietro's crease and paid for it. But Pens goalie Brent Johnson...
...skated down the ice and wiped the smile off DP's face rather effectively in this most decisive of goalie fights (and SI.com's photo gallery has video links to 18 of them).
There were rumors that DiPietro suffered a significant injury, like a broken orbital bone, but that seems to not be the case and TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted this morning that "NYI confirm DiPietro's X-rays in PIT were negative, but add they will re-do X-rays on Long Island to ensure there's no structural damage."
The wisecracks directed toward the fragile DiPietro (known to some as "Rickety") began almost immediately and one of the best came from the always clever Greg Wyshynski on Yahoo's Puck Daddy who wrote "Luckily, it didn't appear DiPietro shattered on impact, despite being Rick DiPietro."
The tussle had both Johnson and DiPietro trending on Twitter (and Johnson was still trending in Canada into his afternoon), most disparagingly toward the Islanders' inconsistent and oft-injured goalie who is not among the NHL's most popular players and has a lucrative guaranteed longterm contract with the Isles. Wyshynski tweeted "I always figured if DiPietro ever caught a punch to the face like that, he'd burst into gold coins."
Others wrote on Twitter, "at least DiPietro stopped that punch, you know, unlike the pucks he missed stopping 3 times;" "You think you're laughing at DiPietro, but really, he's laughing at you. 10 more years"; "love that my mom uses Kane's name as a verb to mean "knocked out with one punch" as in "Johnson kaned DiPietro"' "You got DiPietro-ed!"; "Pretty certain Isles management made DL room before Johnson crossed his own blue line." and this exchange: "Who would win in a fight, DiPietro or (the Senators' equally oft-injured Pascal) Leclaire?" answered by "The doctors & insurance companies."