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Islanders cool off Blues with early outburst
ST. LOUIS — John Tavares knew exactly how the New York Islanders needed to respond to blistering criticism from coach Doug Weight.
One night after Weight ripped into his team for its lack of effort in a 5-0 loss at Dallas, the Islanders rebounded Saturday with a three-goal first period en route to a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, one of the hottest teams in the league.
Tavares ignited the flurry with his 13th goal of the year just 3:21 into the game, setting the tone early.
“As players we know we’re the ones that go out on the ice and obviously have to do the job and execute the system and the framework that they want us to play with,” Tavares said. “We weren’t really close to that last night so we just wanted to get out there and be a lot more competitive like we know we can be.
“When we play like that we know we can play with anyone in the league, so there’s a lot of belief and experience and character in the room. Guys just competed hard. It’s what this league is. There’s 82 games.”
The Islanders followed the early goal by Tavares with markers by Casey Cizikas and Jordan Eberle, taking the 3-0 advantage less than 14 minutes into the game. After getting just 14 shots on goal Friday, the Islanders had 12 in the first period.
“I think that first goal was a prime example of our intentions coming out,” Weight said. “He (Tavares) ends up getting a bobbling puck and makes a great play. It’s just that extra work ethic and the tenacity that we were lacking. That was kind of the staple to what we wanted as an effort, and the chorus was exactly that on the bench so that was nice to see.”
The Blues expected the Islanders to come out strong, and even though they were prepared for it, they could not match New York’s intensity.
The Islanders increased the lead to 4-0 on a goal by Joshua Ho-Sang 3:35 into the second period, which prompted Blues coach Mike Yeo to pull starter Jake Allen and bring Carter Hutton into the game. Allen allowed the four goals on 18 shots, but did not have much help on most of them.
“We got behind to a team which came in here with a chip on their shoulder,” St. Louis left winger Scottie Upshall said. “They got embarrassed last night and they came in here and definitely took it to us early.
“As a hockey player when you are embarrassed like that, you don’t have much time to think about it and you come out and have to turn things around. I don’t think we’ve been down three or four goals all year so it was definitely a different feeling on the bench.”
The Blues had allowed only six combined goals in the first period in their previous 17 games, but Yeo thought it was the third game in a row where they did not play well in the first 20 minutes.
“We got away with it for two so we’ve been playing with fire,” Yeo said. “You look at our start tonight and you look at our urgency with the puck and our urgency to defend and obviously giving them easy goals.”
It was only the second loss in regulation for the Blues in their last 12 games (9-2-1) and only their second in nine games at home.
Anders Lee scored the Islanders’ final goal in the third period to go along with an assist. Nick Leddy chipped in two assists.
Thomas Greiss stopped 35 of 37 shots for the Islanders, allowing only goals by Brayden Schenn and Upshall, who deflected a shot off his skate that cut New York’s lead to 4-2 6:41 into the third.
“From a compete level it was a big difference from yesterday,” said Greiss, who did not play Friday. “Yesterday we were just sleepwalking at times. Today everybody was working hard and it was totally a different game and good things happen for you on the ice.”
NOTES: The Islanders inserted D Dennis Seidenberg and Adam Pelech into their lineup, scratching Thomas Hickey and Ryan Pulock. .... Islanders LW Anthony Beauvillier was scratched after suffering an ankle injury in the third period on Friday night. ... Blues LW Vladimir Sobotka skated in his 400th career game. ... The Blues hit the road for a three-game trip to western Canada, beginning Monday night in Calgary. ... The Islanders don’t play again until Thursday night, when they host Carolina.