TORONTO - Henrik Zetterberg called his game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night one of the worst of his NHL career. Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock saw evidence of that not long after.
"When he was sitting in my office there the next morning I knew he was serious," Babcock said. "He's the leader of our team and we expect him to be good and when he's not good we expect him to respond."
Zetterberg responded with four assists, including three primary ones, Friday night as the Red Wings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at Air Canada Centre. Detroit's captain was masterful in making the plays that led to two goals by Johan Franzen and one by Gustav Nyquist — and looked back on track after a rough outing against Boston.
"The way we played Wednesday in our house against Boston ... it could've been one of my worst games as a Red Wing," Zetterberg said. "It was a tough game and I didn't have much. It was nice to feel better today and bounce back a little bit."
As good as Nyquist was in scoring his fourth goal in as many games this season, Babcock didn't hesitate in calling Zetterberg his team's offensive catalyst. Anyone watching could tell that.
And that includes the Leafs players he tormented.
"He's one of the best players in the world," forward Mike Santorelli said. "You have to be aware whenever he's on the ice."
Added goaltender James Reimer: "He sees the ice well and you just have to try to read the game one step ahead of him, which sometimes is hard. With skill guys like that they just think the game quicker than other guys."
Zetterberg forced a turnover by Toronto defenceman Roman Polak behind the net and made a slick cross-crease pass to Franzen for the first goal of the game 10 minutes in. He then skated by Jake Gardiner in front of the net and waited out Reimer until the goaltender went down and he found Franzen for his second of the night.
Later on, Zetterberg won a race to the puck in the offensive zone and fed it to a streaking Nyquist, who shot it under Reimer's left pad to make it 3-0.
"Mule and Nyquist were good at finding open spots and I found them," Zetterberg said. "Two pure goal-scorers so it's easy to play with them. They always find open spots and both were working really hard, too, and creating a lot of chances by themselves."
Zetterberg came into the night with just one assist in three games. Admittedly a slow starter, he got going against the Leafs.
"I'm feeling OK," he said. "I'm feeling pretty good."
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