Johan Franzen looked loaded to score from his first shift. Jimmy Howard looked loath to let any Avalanche do so.

In a performance that wasn't their best of the season but good enough to win, the Wings relied on their mule and their man in net to edge the Avalanche, 2-1, Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, earning points for the fifth time in six games.

"We're playing hard, and our goalie is giving us a chance to win every night," Franzen said. "We're starting to understand how we have to play to be successful."

Coach Mike Babcock cautioned the Wings, "not give ourselves to much credit here. The score and the amount of chances we gave up aren't the same. We've played better, and lost, than we played tonight. But it's a good win for our hockey club. There's never been an ugly win."

Franzen continued to build on his legend against the Avalanche, scoring his 12th goal in 12 games against Colorado. "I thought he was outstanding," Babcock said. "Last game, he got better as the game wore on; today he was ready to go from the start. He can be a force for us. I thought he was really heavy on the forecheck, he got pucks back. He was excellent."

Niklas Kronwall had the other goal.

Howard made 21 saves through 40 minutes and earned some highlight-reel love two minutes into the third period, when he keeled backwards and to the left to catch a shot by John Mitchell. Shortly after that, Howard stopped a P.A. Parenteau breakaway with a glove save.

Howard described the save on Mitchell as, "you do it in practice, never give up on pucks in practice, and sometimes in games you come up with it."