Josh Anderson scores twice to pace Canadiens in win over Islanders

Although the power forward has only three goals on the season, Montreal fans gave him a rousing ovation at the Bell Centre.

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Josh Anderson would be the first to admit it has been a struggling season.

But for one night, the stars were aligned and the Canadiens’ power forward came to realize, if ever there was any doubt, the esteem Montreal hockey fans have for him.

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Anderson scored twice to pace the Canadiens to a 5-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. His goals, both coming in the second period, increased his total to three this season. But they were the first scored on a goaltender since last March 13 against Colorado, a span of 34 games.

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Anderson also had six of Montreal’s 41 shots and was named the game’s first star. While conducting a post-game, on-ice television interview, he was accorded a standing ovation by the thousands of spectators who didn’t leave early.

“I definitely could be frustrated,” Anderson told a media scrum in the dressing room. “But just seeing their support over the past couple of nights, it really is truly amazing … nights that I’ll always remember. It kind of choked me up on the ice; I’m not going to lie. That was a pretty special moment.

“I know it has been a tough couple of years for (the spectators). They’ve been very, very patient and have shown their support each and every night. We’ve noticed that. We’re trying to win every night. We never give up as a team. I think they realize that.”

Anderson also received a rousing ovation Wednesday night against Pittsburgh when he failed to score in the entertaining 12-round shootout Penguins’ 4-3 victory. His first goal this season came into an empty net on Dec. 4 against Seattle. He now has seven points through 30 games.

Joel Armia, with his third goal in eight games, Cole Caufield, who scored for the first time in eight games, and Christian Dvorak, into an empty net, produced Montreal’s other goals. The Canadiens ended a two-game losing streak and improved to 13-13-4, but won’t return to the Bell Centre until Jan. 4. They are now preparing for a potentially back-breaking seven-game road trip beginning Monday night at Winnipeg.

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The victory also marked the first time in eight games this season the Canadiens have defeated a team playing its second contest in 24 hours. The Islanders lost 5-4 in a shootout at home to Boston on Friday night.

Even at that the visitors made it interesting by scoring three times in the third period and nearly erasing the Montreal’s four-goal cushion. Brock Nelson scored twice for the Islanders to give him a team-leading 15 goals. Bo Horvat scored New York’s third goal. The Canadiens were outshot 17-5 in the period.

Several days ago, Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis made it clear he wasn’t giving up on Anderson and would continue providing him with plenty of ice time — since the player hadn’t given up on himself. Following the game, St. Louis stated he saw nothing different from Anderson on this night.

“I feel like Josh has played some pretty good hockey of late,” the coach said. “Josh has been more on the inside, like the team. And he’s getting rewarded.

“I’m proud of him,” St. Louis continued. “It hasn’t been easy. He’s earned everything and has fought through it. It’s like anything in life — when you quit you’re guaranteed one thing, you’re not going to get what you want. If you keep at it, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get what you want. But quitting, you’re guaranteed you’re not going to get what you want.”

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The Canadiens dominated the goal-less opening period and continued applying pressure in the second, arguably their best 20 minutes this season, when they outshot New York 21-6. But the tables turned in the third.

“Our good is really good,” St. Louis said. “The third period was a big difference. It doesn’t matter what you tell your team (in the intermission). They’re not going to be playing the same way. They’re going to be out there like they’re on a pond and play very loose. Our game-plan is based on the predictability of what the (opposition) does. When they’re down four goals in the third period, they’re not doing that. They’re playing freely and are all over the ice.

“We’re not in these situations a lot, up three, up four in the third. There’s not many safe leads. We have to experience that. Tonight, we did, and we’ll learn from it.”

Despite allowing three goals, Samuel Montembeault stopped 30 shots for a .909 save percentage, improving his record to 7-4-2. Montembeault, playing his second consecutive game, continues establishing himself as the team’s No. 1 netminder.

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