About Last Night: Habs forwards wake up in win over Isles

Josh Anderson scored twice for the Canadiens in their final home game of 2023.

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Josh Anderson scored twice to give the Canadiens a 5-3 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

It was the final game on home ice for the Habs in 2023. They’re set to embark on a seven-game road trip split by the Christmas break.

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Anderson wasn’t the only Habs forward to break out of his offensive rut. Cole Caufield scored his first goal in eight games, while Christian Dvorak’s empty-netter was his second goal all season.

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In his second consecutive start, Sam Montembeault made 30 saves.

After a scoreless first period, Montreal broke out with four goals in the second, including two in the period’s final minute. Joel Armia got things started with a top corner snipe for his third goal in eight games.

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For his first of the night, Anderson got hit by Justin Barron’s point shot, but after the puck dropped in front of him, he spun and fired it past Semyon Varlamov for his first non-empty net goal of the season.

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Anderson’s second came with 54 seconds left in the period. He drove the net and managed to slide the puck under Varlamov to make it 3-0 Habs.

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Only 15 seconds later, Caufield finally busted his slump to extend Montreal’s lead to 4-0. Juraj Slafkovsky picked up the puck behind the net, while Nick Suzuki was able to set up Caufield with the one-touch pass.

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Brock Nelson has been a longtime thorn in Montreal’s side, and he single-handedly halved Montreal’s lead early in the third with two quick goals. The first came shorthanded.

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Then Nelson positioned himself backdoor for the easy tap in off a Noah Dobson feed to reduce Montreal’s lead to 4-2.

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With under six minutes to play, Bo Horvat gave Habs fans a sinking feeling after pulling the Isles to within a goal. Montembeault’s rebound went right to the former Canuck.

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The Canadiens hung on for dear life, and finally got a moment to breathe when Dvorak dumped the puck into the open net after Varlamov was pulled to give Montreal a 5-3 lead with 20 seconds to play.

The top line of Caufield-Suzuki-Slafkovsky contributed 12 shots in the game, and although they only lit the lamp once, they dominated the Isles when they were on the ice.

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It was a positive night for the forwards in general. Jake Evans didn’t get any assists on either Anderson goal, but he helped make both of them happen, and if the Habs can get a line going with the two of them while Alex Newhook remains out with injury, that will be an unexpected plus. Barron also contributed on offence with two helpers.

The Liveblog commenters were cautiously upbeat after the first 40 minutes before nervously sweating through the final 20. The 2023-24 Canadiens are a young team still learning to battle through adversity, so when Nelson potted those two goals early in the third, it was easy to doubt Montreal’s ability to knuckle down and protect the lead. Like a shaky closer in baseball, they allowed baserunners but still got the save. They also get to leave the Bell Centre in 2023 on a high note.

3. “The drama was caused by the boys taking their feet off the gas at the start of the third. They caught a tired team and overran them for 40 minutes. Really would have liked to see them pour it on in the third period and win it going away.” -Don Thompson

2. “The 4 goal lead is the new 2 goal lead.” -Mick Chow

1. “Big Josh getting a nice ovation. Giving me chills! Montreal fans can be at they’re best when players are going through a scoring drought and finally break through in a game like this. Like seeing that.” -KeithH MacCausland

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