In the opening 90 seconds of play Friday between the Red Wings and Predators, Nashville forward Mike Fisher shadowed Johan Franzen near the boards.
Fisher moved closer and swung his arms at the bulky Wings scorer. He struck Franzen on the nose, first with his stick, then his elbow.
Franzen began to bleed from the nose and a cut near his left eye.
Plainly enraged, he retaliated with his stick, cross-checking Fisher.
The referees missed Fisher's aggression, which could have earned him minor penalties for elbowing, high-sticking and an additional two for drawing blood. But, as is almost always the case in the NHL, the referees saw the retaliation.
It was Franzen who sat in the penalty box.
Except for the blood on Franzen's face and sweater, which resulted in an immediate trip to the Red Wings dressing room for repairs, Fisher's violations passed nearly unnoticed. Todd Bertuzzi had picked that juncture to exact his team's revenge against Shea Weber, for his assault on Henrik Zetterberg at the end of the game Wednesday.
It was quite a distraction.
Franzen skated with a cotton-blocker absorbing blood in his nose for much of the rest of the game.
And he has not forgotten.
While the Predators Saturday denied targeting Franzen in some hope of taking the big, goal-scoring forward off his game, they had spent a lot of time running at him in the first game Wednesday, even before Fisher's work with stick and elbow.
It is not clear if that is a wise strategy.
Franzen can get pretty ugly, pretty quickly, when teams begin taking liberties with him. And streaky-hot scoring is just part of his revenge.
"Stick first, then elbow," Franzen said, describing the play after practice Saturday.
"As long as they don't call it, I would do the same," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "If I knew I could throw an elbow at somebody's nose, I would probably do it, too.
"I don't know why they are not calling anything. It's getting a little old right now. I guess you've got to go down and scream loud to get penalties. I don't know."
Asked if Franzen, in effect, has a big target on his back, Predators coach Barry Trotz said his team is an equal-opportunity aggressor, especially in the playoffs.
"You've just got to play everyone hard," Trotz said. "It doesn't matter whether it's Franzen or (rookie Gustav) Nyquist or anyone in their lineup. You've got to play that person real hard because they can hurt you."
Veteran Predators forward David Legwand, a native of Grosse Pointe Woods, said Franzen provides strength in the Red Wings lineup. The strategy, Legwand said, is keeping him to the perimeter in the offensive zone.
"We've done a good job of keeping him to the outside," Legwand said. "But he's a big strong man and he scores goals in front of the net and in those hard areas."
Franzen said that although his retaliation against Fisher put the Predators on the power play, he simply reacted as lots of players would.
"You usually do something back if you get an elbow to the nose," he said. "You're not too happy with the other guy and if the ref only sees what I do and not what they do, I'm going to get called.
"If they'd just do their job, everything would be fine."
But Franzen said he also enjoys the more physical nature of NHL games during the playoffs.
"I like the physical part of the game, either throwing a hit or getting one that usually fires you up a little bit," he said. "I like that part of playoff hockey."
And his coach likes seeing physical play from Franzen.
"He's physical," Wings coach Mike Babcock said, appraising Franzen's play through two games.
"I think anytime he's involved physically, he's a better player. When he moves his feet, he's a better player. Those are two things we talk about on a constant basis.
"If he wants to have success, that's what he has to do."
Through two games, Franzen has a goal on six shots. In his career in the playoffs, he has 73 points (38 goals, 35 assists) in 85 games. He also is a plus-35.
Asked whether he personally prefers to resort to aggressive physicality to exact revenge, or scoring a goal, Franzen laughed.
"It depends!" he said.
"If there is a hit that is easy to get to, if there is a hit out there to get, you should try to get it," he said of the possibility of throwing a heavy body check, in retaliation. "But you don't focus on just running around and finding guys. Try to play a game and make it as hard on them as possible."
Playing the game with the best results for the Red Wings requires Franzen to use his size — the 32-year-old lists at 6-foot-3, 220-pounds — to get to the middle of the ice and down low, inside the defenders, near the net.
"He has the ability to be a big-time player," Babcock said. "Being a big-time player this time of year is real simple: Lots of guys have regular-season success and can't have any in the playoffs, just because they're not gritty enough and determined enough and they need more space.
"Well, there's no space. You've got to dig in and find a way to do that.
"And so he has the tool set to do that and he's always found a way to do that. And we need him to do that again, this year."
Franzen has done it in the playoffs in the past. Running at him and drawing his blood may only guarantee that he will do it again.