The New York Islanders were embarrassed Friday night in Dallas. They were on the short end of a 5-0 score. They had only 14 shots on goal all game. And afterward they got called out by their coach, former Blue Doug Weight.
Saturday night, they took out their frustration on the Blues with three goals and 12 shots in the first period alone. The Blues, mind you, entered the game having allowed only six first-period goals through their first 17 games — a league low.
But things were different this night, a 5-2 Islanders victory before 18,761 at Scottrade Center, leaving coach Mike Yeo understandably upset about the team’s slow start.
“That’s three games in a row now,” he said, referring to sluggish first periods by his team. “We got away with it for two, so we’ve been playing with fire. Our start tonight, you look at our urgency with the puck and our urgency to defend.”
Or lack thereof.
When this campaign started, the Blues didn’t let a string of offseason and preseason injuries slow them down. Or seven road games in their first nine contests. With Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Blues completed a stretch of seven home games in nine contests . Home or away, injured or healthy, the Blues kept winning. Almost every time out.
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Alas, Saturday wasn’t one of those nights. Their historic start hit a bump against the Islanders (9-6-2). At 13-4-1, the Blues still lead the Western Conference with 27 points and remain one point behind Tampa Bay for the top overall spot in the NHL. They now head out on a three-game trip to western Canada starting Monday in Calgary.
With the possible exception of a 5-2 loss to Florida in Game 5, the Blues’ first loss of the season, they hadn’t experienced a game like this. And the Blues were a tired team against the Panthers, playing their third road game in four days.
If any team should’ve been tired Saturday, it would be the Islanders, who were playing back-to-back after their debacle in Dallas. But it was the Blues who were outscored and outhustled.
“A little bit of adversity to show what kind of character we’re going to have here,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “Go on the road, out west, I think it’s going to be a good challenge for us to bounce back and come back together as a team.”
• BOX SCORE: Islanders 5, Blues 2
• BLUES TALK: Sound off about Saturday's loss
Islanders star John Tavares got the Blues’ uncharacteristic night started early in the proceedings, emerging from behind Jake Allen’s net, patiently waiting for the Blues’ defense to commit, and then burying his 13th goal of the season at the 3:21 mark.
It marked the fourth time in the past five games that the opposing team had scored first on the Blues, so no big deal, right?
It became a bigger deal midway through the period when Casey Cizikas outmuscled Vince Dunn for a rebound in front of Allen to score on a backhand for a 2-0 Islanders lead.
And then a really big deal at the 13:18 mark when the Islanders counterattacked after a sequence in which the Blues had a couple of excellent chances on New York goalie Thomas Greiss. The end result was a perfectly executed 2-on-1 rush by the Islanders with Jordan Eberle squeezing one inside the post on Allen’s glove side.
“They came out hard, they made some good plays,” said forward Brayden Schenn, who scored the first Blues goal. “I think scoring in the first five minutes gave them some energy, some life. We would have liked a better start.”
It marked the first time all season the Blues trailed 3-0 in the opening period, and only the third time all year they had given up as many as three goals in any period. The Blues haven’t trailed much all season, and the only previous time they trailed by as many as three goals came in their first loss of the season — that defeat Oct. 12.
Things got no better early in the second period. Joshua Ho-Sang made it 4-0 at the 3:35 mark, a goal that ended Allen’s night. Again, only against Florida had the Blues trailed by as many as four goals this season — a 5-1 deficit in the third period of that game.
“He’s been playing so well for us all season,” Parayko said. “It’s kind of tough to lay an egg for him like that, but it’s over now for everyone. We just have to make sure we come out in the next game and do our game.”
Backup Carter Hutton replaced Allen. Fourteen seconds later, out went Blues center Paul Stastny, leaving the game after getting hit in the mouth by Tavares’ stick near center ice. The Blues actually were another player short before the period ended with Oskar Sundqvist leaving as well. But both players returned for the third period.
Schenn’s fifth goal of the season at the 11:31 mark of the second made it 4-1. And the Blues threatened to make it a game when Scottie Upshall scored 6½ minutes into the third to make it 4-2. But that’s as close as the Blues got. Anders Lee, who scored when the teams met Oct. 9 in Brooklyn — a 3-2 shootout win for St. Louis — got one past Hutton at the 15:33 mark, ending any hopes for a dramatic comeback.
“We’ll come back to the rink (Sunday) and we’ll get better,” Yeo said.