First, the Red Wings made Corey Perry almost disappear, turning the Ducks forward and former league MVP into a virtual nonfactor for seven games as he failed to score even once.
For its next act, Detroit made Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf almost vanish in the final two games of the series, limiting him to one assist and making him look oddly mortal in the faceoff circle.
There are plenty of reasons -- big and small -- why the Red Wings beat the Ducks in the Western Conference quarterfinals, finishing them off with a 3-2 victory in Game 7 Sunday night at Honda Center.
But it all circles right back to star power. The "Euro-Twins," Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, dug deep for the Red Wings. Facing elimination in Game 6, they led their less experienced teammates out of the abyss, to two victories and a second-round playoff meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The same could not be said for Getzlaf and Perry, the duo often called "The Twins" by teammates. The Ducks got their secondary scoring, but the primary scoring was found wanting. Even icon Teemu Selanne, who, at 42, might have played his final NHL game, failed to score in the series after his goal in Game 1.
"We played good enough to hang in there," Getzlaf said. "We didn't play good enough tonight to take the hockey game. That's the difference. They scored some timely goals at the start of that game and when you have that two-goal cushion it feels good.
"We've said all year that we can't keep putting ourselves behind the eight ball. In Game 7, it's a prime example of that. . . . It's a tough way to go."
The Ducks at times appeared curiously disengaged Sunday. They gave up an early goal to Zetterberg and seemed overwhelmed by the occasion. Still, they gradually got back into it and tied the score 1-1 with rookie forward Emerson Etem's terrific unassisted effort at 13:48 of the first.
But a dagger came on a short-handed goal by Justin Abdelkader, who took advantage of a bad pass by Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin and promptly buried it on the breakaway, beating Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller to make it 2-1.
Valtteri Filppula's goal made it 3-1 in the second. The Ducks had plenty of time to stage a comeback but didn't get engaged until too late. Beauchemin's shot deflected off the leg of Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to cut the deficit to one, but only 3 minutes 17 seconds remained.
"I don't want to have any regrets. There's no point in sitting here trying to finger-point what happened tonight," Getzlaf said. "We're all in together. We've been in all year together and it's just a tough way to go."
Zetterberg and Datsyuk combined for eight points in Games 6 and 7, and Zetterberg had three goals in those final two games. He had the first one Sunday just 1:49 in, shifting immense pressure onto the Ducks' shoulders, and later set up Filppula's goal at 13:45 of the second.
This was a series of lost opportunity. The Ducks could have met the Kings in the second round, and missed a chance to create a special moment for hockey in Southern California.
The Ducks lost three overtime games to Detroit and led the series, three games to two, before dropping the final two.
"You're obviously going to think about some things that you left out there and things you could have done differently," defenseman Cam Fowler said. "But that's all part of growing up and becoming experienced in the playoffs."