DETROIT -- No pun intended, but the Phoenix Coyotes knew they were in for a dogfight before this best-of-seven series against the Detroit Red Wings even began.
That best-of-seven has become a best-of-three, as the Coyotes failed to gain a 3-1 lead with Tuesday night's 3-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena. Game 5 will be played back in Phoenix on Friday, when the Coyotes get a second crack at putting the defending Western Conference champs on the brink of elimination.
"We knew this was going to be a very tight series," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "That's the kind of team we are … we play a lot of tight games. We've done a pretty good job for most of the year and finding a way to win those tight games. We're in the middle of the series and we're deadlocked. I look forward to the challenge, our players look forward to the challenge, but we recognize that they're a very good team. I think our team still has something more to give."
Game 4 was well within the Coyotes' grasp into the third period, when they trailed 1-0 and failed to capitalize on a 17-second two-man advantage. Phoenix went 0-for-6 on the power play Tuesday night, but has a couple of days to work on special teams before the series resumes at home on Friday.
"It was a one-goal game with three minutes left," forward Radim Vrbata said. "It was a close game."
It remained close until Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored 25 seconds apart late in the third period to help the Red Wings pull away. Considering both teams have won in the opposition's building in this series, Tippett and his team are fully aware that they can't settle for anything less than a 60-minute effort in Game 5.
"It's a tight series," Tippett said. "We rather we'd win this game tonight, but we didn't. We recaptured our home ice back, and we have to go home and defend that now. As a series gets shorter, the games will continue to be tight."
That's why it's so vital that the Coyotes capitalize on the chances the Red Wings gave them during the third period on Tuesday night. Not only did Phoenix fail to tie the game on the power play, but it was unable to muster any quality shots against Jimmy Howard, who made 29 saves in his first postseason shutout.
"We had chances," forward Robert Lang said. "We just didn't put them in. It's not like they really ran away with it. We split the games here. We had a strong Game 3.
"You have to assume that it's not going to be a blowout one way or the other. We know they're a veteran team."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL