Canada's captain at the IIHF World Hockey Championship stood up and took the blame Thursday after a 4-3 quarter-final loss to Slovakia that sent the team packing early for the third straight year. Getzlaf took a major penalty for kneeing with less than three minutes to play and Michal Handzus scored the winning goal on the ensuing power play.
"It's a sick way to lose," said Getzlaf. "It sucks when you're in a hard-fought game like that and it comes down to that kind of play. It's a tough way to lose, a tough pill to swallow right now."
It ended up being that kind of tournament for him.
Getzlaf travelled to Helsinki with dreams of adding the final jewel needed to join the IIHF's "Triple Gold Club" — having already won the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold. Instead, he found himself at the centre of Finnish media reports about an alleged incident in a nightclub, something Getzlaf said was "overblown."
On the ice, it was only marginally better as the big centre seemed to have to ease his way into the tournament after taking a couple weeks off following the conclusion of his season with the Anaheim Ducks.
He actually played a good game against the Slovaks, save for the ill-timed penalty that led to the game-winner. With Canada trailing 2-0 in the first period, Getzlaf keyed the comeback by driving hard to the net and setting up Evander Kane's goal.
"I thought he was our best player tonight," said forward John Tavares. "That first goal he drove the net and got us really back into it. He got some good things going for us, he was great all over the ice."
Even though Getzlaf said he felt as though he let his teammates down in the quarter-finals, they didn't agree with his assessment.
"There was a lot of things out there that could have gone differently," said forward Patrick Sharp. "To point the finger at one guy, we're not going to do that."
Getzlaf finished the tournament with nine points — tied with Tavares for Canada's second-highest total, two back of team leader Duncan Keith. He was also among the ice time leaders among forwards.
A number of European journalists wrote stories criticizing Getzlaf's leadership ability, but the players he shared a dressing room with for two weeks were quick to come to his defence.
"He played well," said Tavares. "There shouldn't be any blame or criticism put on him for the way he led us. He was a great leader all tournament."