DETROIT - It was Rick Nash's offence that helped the Columbus Blue Jackets get to the playoffs for the first time.
His disappearing act might cause an early exit.
The Red Wings skated past the Blue Jackets 4-0 on Saturday night in Hockeytown to go up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series which resumes Tuesday night in Columbus.
Nash, who set the eight-year-old franchise's record with 79 points this season, has been invisible so far.
Asked what the Wings are doing to shut him down, Nash said, "They're playing me tight. There's not a lot of room and I'm not getting much time with the puck."
The all-star left wing has been smothered every time he comes into the offensive zone. Red Wings defencemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, or sometimes sterling two-way forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, have shadowed him wherever he goes.
The Blue Jackets have managed just one goal in two games.
In Game 1, a 4-1 Detroit win, Nash managed just four shots on goal and no points in more than 22 1/2 minutes on the ice.
In Game 2, crowded by guys in red and white all night, he had just three shots again in about 16 1/2 minutes of a game that was over after the second period.
"We'll see if we can make some room for him now," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Lidstrom and Rafalski, it's not those two guys. It's the five-man group. They've got five world-class players playing against him."
About the only time the Columbus captain was in the spotlight was in the waning moments when he met with officials sorting out a fight between teammate Antoine Vermette and Datsyuk.
Nash, just 24 and in his first playoff series just like the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2002 draft, likes to use his six-foot-four, 220-pound frame to muscle past defenders. But that hasn't worked against Detroit, with everyone pinching on him whenever he crosses the neutral zone.
"We've got to give him some support," Columbus forward Jason Chimera said. "We need guys closer so we can use each other a little more. You have to play more of a give-and-go game in the playoffs. They're all over him. They're trying to get him rattled as much as possible. We have to help him get some open space."
Hitchcock said the reason Nash has been shut out isn't because he's being outworked.
"I thought he played his tail off," Hitchcock said. "He competed and battled about as hard as he can go. But we're going to have to get him some more help."
Of course this is nothing new to wise veterans like those who litter the Red Wings lineup. Last year in the Stanley Cup finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins saw offensive stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin shut down by the Wings in the six-game series.
Chris Osgood has kept the Blue Jackets at bay in the Detroit net.
"Osgood's playing well, he's hot right now," Nash said. "We've got to stick with it and fight through it."
The Blue Jackets came into the game risking little. After all, no one really expected them to dethrone the Wings.
They played well for the first half of Game 1 but were outclassed the rest of the way. Then, after another strong first period on Saturday night, the Red Wings turned the game into a rout.
Detroit has been down this road before.
"That's what makes us different," Osgood said. "We know what to do."
Now the real pressure shifts to Columbus. A series tilts on the first road win. The Blue Jackets will host their first playoff game ever at a packed and passionate Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night. Win and they will prove they belong. Lose and they're headed toward an ignominious sweep and some bad memories from their initial foray into the post-season.
And a lot of it rides on Nash's shoulders.