Disappointed by a bad loss in the last game, New York coach Jack Capuano singled out some players he said `needed to play better.' The Islanders then went out and got a crucial win in their playoff push.
John Tavares got his 30th goal and two assists, and New York scored three times in a 5:15 span of the second period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Monday night.
On Saturday, the Islanders lost 5-0 at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We were embarrassed by it," Tavares said. "We knew it was a big two points (tonight) and we played our type of game. ... We really liked the way we responded and now we got to carry it over tomorrow (at Washington). That's the really important test I think, test our character in a tough back-to-back against a team that's won the Presidents' Trophy already and we're still fighting hard here."
Ryan Pulock, Matt Martin, Brock Nelson and Johnny Boychuk also scored for the Islanders, and Thomas Greiss had 32 saves. New York holds the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot and won for the third time in four games to reduce its magic number to two over Boston to secure a third straight postseason berth.
After the morning skate earlier Monday, Capuano named Nelson, Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey among the players that needed to step up down the stretch.
"It's not that I'm calling them out or trying to embarrass them in front of anybody, we need those guys to play better," Capuano said after the win. "The only reason I singled them out is because I care about them. ... And we gotta do something to ignite them."
The Islanders remained two points behind the crosstown-rival Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and the teams meet at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The Islanders improved to 10-2-1 at home since the All-Star break and play two of their last four at Barclays Center.
Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning, and Ben Bishop gave up five goals on 23 shots before he was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped 13 shots. Tampa Bay dropped four points behind first-place Florida in the Atlantic Division after the Panthers' win at Toronto, and the Lightning's magic number for their third consecutive playoff berth remained at one.
"We gave up four breakaways in the second period," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We weren't shooting and ultimately we would spend time in their zone and they'd get a breakaway and score. ... That was the tough part to watch because they were working their tails off. They were competing, they were battling and we just weren't working smart enough."
The Lightning were without star Steven Stamkos, who had surgery to remove a blood clot from near his right collarbone Monday and is expected to miss 1 to 3 months.
Martin put the Islanders ahead 2-1 with 9 minutes remaining in the second when he took a pass from Cal Clutterbuck, cut toward the net and lifted the puck in off Bishop for his ninth of the season.
Nelson made it a two-goal game about 4 1/2 minutes later when he got ahead of Lightning defenders, took a perfect pass from Nikolay Kulemin and lifted a backhand into the top right corner.
With the Lightning's J.T. Brown off for a high-stick to Clutterbuck's face, Tavares made it 4-1 with a slap shot from the top of the left circle with 3:45 left in the second. Kyle Okposo had his team-high 39th assist on the play.
Hedman pulled the Lightning back within two with his 10th of the season with 7 seconds left in the middle period.
Bishop stopped two shots by Anders Lee on a breakaway, but Boychuk wristed it in at 4:28 of the third. Tavares had his second assist of the game and team-high 64th point on the score.
NOTES: The Lightning opened a season-ending four-game trip and fell to 20-16-2 away from home. ... The teams split their first two meetings of the season, both at Tampa. The Islanders won 3-2 on Nov. 28 and the Lightning won 7-4 on March 25. ... Islanders D Calvin de Haan left the game late in the first after taking a shot by Kucherov off his right knee earlier in the period. He was ruled out for the rest of the game early in the third. ... New York called up G Christopher Gibson from Bridgeport of the AHL on an emergency loan to back up Greiss with Jean-Francois Berube out with a lower-body injury.