Ryan Getzlaf has been dominant when the Anaheim Ducks have needed their captain most, scoring clutch goals in two of their three wins.
"Isn't that what he's supposed to do?" coach Bruce Boudreau asked after his team arrived Thursday night in Detroit. "Your best player is supposed to be your best player."
It hasn't worked out that way so far for the Detroit Red Wings and their captain, putting them on the brink of elimination at home in Game 6 of their first-round series against Anaheim.
Henrik Zetterberg hasn't scored in the playoffs in nearly 13 months. He has gone a career-high seven post-season games without a goal dating to last year's first-round setback against Nashville.
"You want to be on the scoresheet," Zetterberg said. "All you can do is continue to work hard, keep putting pucks on the net, and hopefully one or two will sneak by the goalie."
Two of Getzlaf's three goals — a total that puts him among NHL leaders — helped lift the Ducks to leads in the series.
He had a short-handed goal midway through the third period of Game 3 to give Anaheim a two-goal lead in a game it won 4-0 to go ahead 2-1 in the series. He pulled the Ducks into a 2-2 tie with 31 seconds left in Game 5, helping them extend a game they took 3-2 in overtime to go ahead 3-2 in the best-of-seven matchup.
Getzlaf said the Ducks plan to match the desperation Detroit will have, hoping to avoid playing an up-for-grabs Game 7 back in Anaheim.
"We've worked really hard throughout the year to know what to do in these situations," he said. "We're excited about trying to get that win here in Detroit."
'We've been through this before. It's first to four, not first to three.' —Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg
The Red Wings, of course, have other plans and can point to Zetterberg's past production in the playoffs as a source of optimism.
Zetterberg and Philadelphia's Danny Briere lead the league with 48 post-season goals since 2006, according to STATS, and only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have produced more points in the playoffs than Zetterberg (80) since 2008.
The Swede isn't sweating his scoring slump, or the situation the seventh-seeded Red Wings are in against a bigger and perhaps better team.
"We've been through this before," Zetterberg said. "It's first to four, not first to three."
Zetterberg, though, wasn't in the NHL the last time the Red Wings advanced after trailing a series 3-2.
Detroit, in its 22nd straight post-season, hasn't won Games 6 and 7 in a series since coming back in the Western Conference finals to beat Colorado in 2002 — the season before Zetterberg's rookie year. They went on to hoist the Stanley Cup that season.
As good as Getzlaf is, the Ducks are in the playoffs for just the second time in four years and have made it out of the first round only once — in 2009 — since he led them to a title in 2007.
He bounced back this year with a team-high 49 points in 44 games during the lockout-shortened season after slipping to third on the team in scoring last season. Getzlaf has followed his strong play with more of the same in the playoffs.
"It's not going to hurt his reputation at all, but things change on a dime," Boudreau said. "People only remember the end result, quite frankly. If we were to go out and play two duds in a row, then that's all they're going to remember is that we lost."
The Ducks might also lament that Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader knocked out defenceman Toni Lydman with a blow to the head that led to a suspension for the Red Wing and likely a series-ending injury for Lydman.
Abdelkader landed his left shoulder on the side of Lydman's head in Game 3 and was suspended for the next two games.
While the Red Wings are looking forward to getting Abdelkader back on Zetterberg's line, Anaheim is left to wish Lydman was on their blue line.
"Whether it be (Game 6) or Sunday, I got to believe it would be hard for him to get back in the lineup," Boudreau said.