OTTAWA, Ontario — Johan Franzen has no explanation for his success in Ottawa, a place he certainly enjoys playing in.
The Detroit Red Wings forward was at his best once again, scoring three goals in a 6-1 win over the Senators on Thursday night. Franzen, who returned to the Red Wings' lineup Wednesday after playing just one of the past 24 games due to a concussion, had five goals against the Senators in February 2011.
"I like playing here," Franzen said. "We have Erik Karlsson on the other side and we grew up in the same little town, so it's always fun to play him. It's something special every time. I'm just happy to keep him from the scoreboard. It's always fun to play him."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock is pleased to see Franzen having success — no matter where it is.
"He's an important player for us," Babcock said. "He has the ability, he has the touch. Lots of guys play real hard and can't score. He can score."
It appears Franzen also has the ability to get under his opponent's skin. Ottawa's Chris Neil went after Franzen late in the game and while nothing came of it Franzen was less than impressed.
"He tried to hit me and he couldn't move me, so I think he got a little upset," Franzen said. "I have no clue. He usually shows up when the game is over and tries to be the hero. He puts his cape on and goes and flies out there. I don't know."
Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar also scored for Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 37 shots.
With the win, the Red Wings (28-20-12) have a five-point lead over the Senators (26-23-11) for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
"Coming back from the break and you start 2-0, it's way better than the opposite way," 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."
The Senators had little explanation for their performance.
"It's an extremely disappointing loss," Ottawa captain Jason Spezza said. "We knew that it was a very important game for us and to lose it by that score is obviously not what we were looking for."
Bobby Ryan scored the lone goal for the Senators, who were playing their first game since the Olympic break. Robin Lehner allowed six goals on 15 shots before Andrew Hammond made his NHL debut, stopping all nine shots he faced.
Things fell apart for the Senators in a nine-minute in the first period.
Ryan had a goal overturned after it was ruled that he kicked it in, and then the Senators' leading goal scorer missed two great chances on the power play. The Red Wings later scored on consecutive shots.
Ottawa's Cody Ceci gave the puck up deep in the Senators' end as he made a no-look, behind-the-back pass that landed right on the stick of Sheahan, who ripped a shot past Lehner. Just 29 seconds later, Franzen scored his first after he was left all alone to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
Franzen then made it 3-0 with a power-play goal as once again he was left alone, this time on the opposite side of the ice.
Detroit made it 4-0 on a delayed penalty call with two minutes remaining in the period. Niklas Kronwall, who finished with three assists, had a shot from just inside the blue-line deflected and ended up on Jurco's stick, who roofed it over Lehner.
"They got a few goals pretty fast and then it snowballed," Lehner said. "I think we've all got to do better in our zone and I've got to do better. It was one of the most toughest games I've played personally, but it's over now. There's not much to say."
Franzen completed his hat trick early in the second period.
"We played a lot better than the score maybe indicated, but the score is what it is and you can't change that," Senators coach Paul MacLean said.
When asked who the best player was, MacLean couldn't help but say: "Johan Franzen, I think. I think we're all tied for the worst."
Ryan finally got the Senators on board at the four-minute mark of the second, but any celebration was short-lived as Detroit made it 6-1 as Tatar beat Lehner from in close.
That marked the end of Lehner's appearance, opening the door for Hammond to make his first NHL appearance. Craig Anderson was unavailable due to the birth of his second child.
Despite the surprise appearance Hammond held his own and made a number of big saves.
"Not letting anything in was a good start," he said. "Any kid from Canada growing up playing hockey, it's their dream to play in the NHL and it's pretty special for me to be one of those guys that's lucky enough now to say I've played in the NHL. It's very special."
NOTES: This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams as they split the season series. ... D Patrick Wiercioch, D Joe Corvo and LW Matt Kassian were healthy scratches for the Senators. RW Patrick Eaves, RW Todd Bertuzzi and RW Daniel Cleary were healthy scratches for the Red Wings. ... A number of Canadian Olympians were recognized before the game, including Detroit coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland. Thursday's game marked Daniel Alfredsson's second appearance at Canadian Tire Centre since signing with the Red Wings last summer.