DETROIT – The Phoenix Coyotes have been outhit, outscored and outplayed overall in the first two games of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Still, they've done enough good things to know that all is not lost despite being down 2-0 in the series following Saturday's 4-3 loss at Joe Louis Arena – a gutsy effort after the Red Wings took a 4-0 lead early in the second period.
"No series starts until you lose the first one at home," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, whose pair of power-play goals in the third made it a one-goal game for the final 11:23. "You put yourself in a hole. You've got to find a way to dig out of it. We've got to find a way to pick up a win."
It should help to be on home ice at Jobing.com Arena for the next two games. The series will resume on Monday night in the desert, and will be must-see games if the next two are even half as entertaining as the first two.
Still, despite playing strong down the stretch in Game 2, the Coyotes are pressed up against the wall being down a pair. Detroit is 19-4 over their 20-year playoff appearance streak when winning the first two games of a series.
The good news for Phoenix is the last time Detroit lost a series up two games going into game 3 was the 2009 Stanley Cup Final – in which the Pittsburgh Penguins eventually won the series in seven games. Any shreds of positive outlook at this point are good for the Coyotes' psyche after coming into the Motor City talking tough and dropping both.
"Obviously, you have a hole to dig out of," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "You're down two, but you know, basically what we've got to do is go home and defend our home ice. At some point, we're going to have to win a game in (Joe Louis Arena). We've proven we can do that in the past, so we have to go home and think about defending our home ice now and we'll get ourselves back in the series."
If not, the series could be over real quick. Granted, Detroit has had its lapses in both games – and has committed a whopping 15 penalties – but the Wings have also found ways to win and control the game for long spans.
The Coyotes are still searching for their first win, and trying to stop dynamic Russian center Pavel Datsyuk isn't exactly making the task any easier.
While compensating for not having injured star forward Henrik Zetterberg (lower body), Datsyuk is on fire to start this series. He has scored Detroit's first goal in both games and played a part in all four Red Wings tallies in Game 2 – including a crowd-pleasing between-the-legs shot off the rush that resulted in a rebound score by Darren Helm for a 3-0 lead late in the first.
"The guy is disgusting," Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said in admiration of Datsyuk. "It is (fun) to watch him, but not fun to play against. It has to be a collective five-guy unit to take care of him, because one or two guys he's going to embarrass."
Phoenix has found that out the hard way more times than the Coyotes would care to remember already. Yet, all is not lost just because Datsyuk is great.
Despite being outhit for the second straight game, this time 41-38, Phoenix showed a lot more grit than game 1 on Saturday – dishing out some punishing blows to match the ones Detroit sent their way. They also outshot the Red Wings 33-31 and have something correctable they can look back on from both games that could've swayed either outcome.
In Game 1, it was not scoring a single goal on six power plays in a 4-2 loss. In game 2, despite tallying three power-play goals on seven attempts, the downfall was a first-period wrought with ill-advised trips to the penalty box – five in all, including two on one roughing call assessed to Martin Hanzal, who also picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct call that led to a 5-on-3 for Detroit.
That led to Datsyuk's power-play goal, while a slashing call against Michal Rozsival less than five minutes later led to a goal by Brian Rafalski with a man-advantage.
"Any time you get behind by that many goals it's tough to get back, but especially against these guys," Yandle said. "They have so much skill, and they work hard and they are very good defensively."
Now, it's up to the Coyotes to respond. Certain aspects of their game have shined, but putting it all together will be paramount at home in the next two.
"We know if we play a certain way we can play with them," said Ray Whitney, who committed one of the first-period penalties. "We know if we play another way we can't play with them. The second period, they had another five-or-six minute span where we couldn't get out of our zone and when we play like that it doesn't work. When we play like we did in the third, we have a little more success."
They'll also need Doan to keep playing like "a bull in a china shop," as Tippett described his captain.
"That's who he is," Tippett said. "He's a dominant player when he plays like that and he got rewarded with (two) goals (today). I just wish some of the other guys on our team would take the lead from that and jump in as hard as he does."
I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.
— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh