There was no panic in the Islanders' comments after they pulled only one point out of four from the weekend home-and-home against the Blackhawks. But the feeling that things had to improve, and quickly, showed in their game from the drop of the puck in Monday's home matinee against the Jets.
"We came out with kind of a do-or-die mentality," John Tavares said. "We needed a win here to get this going."
The captain was the one carrying the flag, as usual. Tavares had a goal and two assists as the Isles pulled out to a three-goal lead in the second period, wobbled a bit and held on for a 4-2 win, their first victory at Barclays Center and of the 2015-16 season.
Tavares played the opening two games with his customary force, but linemates Anders Lee and Ryan Strome shrunk a bit from the challenge of facing the defending Stanley Cup champs in the openers both home and away. Brock Nelson also struggled, and the Islanders will go nowhere without those three second-generation core players.
So when Strome slammed home the rebound of Kyle Okposo's shot with 11.8 seconds to go in the first period -- a puck that came strongly off the end boards as Okposo missed the net from the point -- there was more than a little relief in Strome's celebration.
"We talked with Ryan [Sunday], and he knows he had to pick his game up," Jack Capuano said. "When you're on the top line, you're facing the best the other team has. He knows he needed to be better."
That goal was converted on the Isles' fourth man-advantage of the opening period as the Jets, coming into Brooklyn off wins in Boston and New Jersey, decided to re-enact a few scenes from "The Warriors," shoving Islanders around after the whistle. All that was missing were the matching leather vests.
Nelson got his first goal on a three-on-one 6:46 into the second, snapping a wrist shot low past Ondrej Pavelec. Nelson had seven shots on goal and four golden chances in the second.
"We got a few different guys going today," Nelson said. "Hopefully, we can ride that a little bit."
Tavares snapped a rebound past Pavelec on the power play at 10:45 of the second, converting after Dustin Byfuglien inexplicably shoved Tavares to the ice to draw one of six minors the Jets took. The Islanders had a 36-15 shot edge through two periods but couldn't put away the Jets.
Mark Scheifele and Byfuglien made the announced crowd of 11,183 sweat it out to the end. Byfuglien's power-play goal with 8:08 left in the third came on a slap shot that Johnny Boychuk deflected past Thomas Greiss.
After a hairy couple of minutes, Tavares and his linemates turned the tide back again inside of five minutes to go with a dominant shift in the Jets' zone. Tavares also was awarded a penalty shot when Toby Enstrom slashed Tavares on a breakaway with 2:15 to play, but Pavelec (40 saves) denied Tavares' backhand after a dizzying array of moves.
Josh Bailey was able to secure the win with an empty-netter at 19:41, putting the frustration of opening night's overtime loss and the disappointment of a poor performance in Chicago behind the team.
"That's a really tough team to play against, much less open the season with them twice," Strome said. "Today we were able to get our legs under us, get going into the season."