Head Coach Doug Weight had some tough love for his team after a 5-0 loss in Dallas on Friday night, but even though the coach had to let his team have it on Saturday morning, the coach - and the Islanders - knew the answer was in the room. The Islanders responded with a 5-2 win over the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues - in St. Louis, a historically tough building for the Islanders.
"It just starts with our leadership," said Casey Cizikas, who scored on Saturday. "That starts up top with Johnny, Clutter, Ladder, Bails and JB. Those guys lead our team and they played unbelievable tonight. They got us off to the start that we needed."
It started with the John Tavares line, as Josh Bailey and Anders Lee forechecked hard in the first period, forced a turnover behind the net that Tavares eventually brought out front for a score.
"The first goal was a prime example of our intentions coming out," Weight said. "That extra work ethic and that tenacity we were lacking. That was the staple of what we wanted as an effort."
Video: NYI@STL: Tavares fires wrister past Allen in front
Weight said he saw the seeds of turnaround start the night before and into game-day on Saturday.
"As disappointed as you are, you have to let them figure it out," Weight said of his top guys. "As a coaching staff we helped them figure it out in the morning, but I thought it was great. They were resilient in their shift length, getting pucks in and being smart, but they also created and I think that's a strength of our team."
The Islanders ability to bounce back has been a theme in the early goings of the season. After three lopsided losses - 5-0 at Columbus, 6-4 at Minnesota and 5-0 at Dallas - the Islanders have responded with three wins - 6-3 vs Buffalo, 6-2 at Nashville and 5-2 at St. Louis. The Islanders have yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation this season.
According to official Islanders statistician Eric Hornick, the Islanders have lost eight games by three or more goals under Weight - and are 8-0 in the next game.
Tavares was asked about his team's resiliency and the captain put it succinctly.
"We take a lot of pride in this room," Tavares said.
Video: NYI@STL: Cizikas buries goal on nice backhanded shot
FOURTH LINE STEPS UP:
Prior to Saturday's game, Weight said he wanted more physicality from his fourth line, but Jason Chimera, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck went beyond that, chipping in a goal in the Islanders win.
Cizikas scored his fourth goal of the season, driving the net and backhanding a Nick Leddy rebound past Jake Allen. They lit the lamp once, but also had extended zone time and created several other quality chances.
"We didn't really fool around with the puck. We kept it simple, we went D to D, we went up the ice. We didn't try to make cute plays," Cizikas said. "I dont think there was too many times we were hemmed into our own zone and that just gives credit to our D and wingers on the wall."
Chimera had Allen down in the opening minutes, but had a backhand go off the heel of his stick and into the goalie's paddle. It was the second time in as many games Chimera was thwarted in tight as he looks for his first goal of the season. Clutterbuck and Cizikas teamed up for slap pass and redirection in the high slot as the fourth line had a few good shifts in the offensive end.
"I think it was Chimmer's best game in a long time," Weight said. "He always skates, but he had a purpose to his game today and he was good. They were tenacious as a group. You lose Kuly, he's not a banger, but he's a big thick human being who is always in the right spot and is tough to play against. We need more of that in our lineup."
Video: NYI@STL: Quine feeds Ho-Sang for a one-timer
HO-SANG SCORES IN RETURN:
It was a whirlwind day for Josh Ho-Sang. There was a midnight phone call for his pending recall, a 5:30 a.m. wakeup in Bridgeport, an 11 a.m. (central time) landing in St. Louis and by 8:30 p.m. he had his first goal of the season.
"More than anything I'm happy that we won and I'm happy that I could contribute. For me it was a great experience," Ho-Sang said.
Ho-Sang had spent the previous three weeks with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, in part to keep the Islanders under the 23-man roster limit and to work on his structure. Before the game, Weight said he liked Ho-Sang's work ethic, talent and fearlessness, but wanted to see some consistency to his game.
"I think he was playing the game the right way," Weight said after the Islanders win. "He made good decisions at the right time. He was simple and then he started to make some plays."
Weight paired Ho-Sang with Alan Quine, as the two played together in Bridgeport over the past two weeks, as Quine was also with the Sound Tigers on a conditioning assignment. Quine assisted on Ho-Sang's goal on Saturday night.
"They just told me to focus on defense and I did my best down there and it's a great group of guys down there in Bridgeport," Ho-Sang said. "Everybody has been working really hard and kind to me through the process of sending me down and working with me through it."
Ho-Sang and Weight called the recall an opportunity - and at least on Saturday, the young forward siezed it.