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Canadiens vs. Islanders: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Another loss that felt all too familiar.

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

It was November 4. The Montreal Canadiens were facing an Eastern Conference opponent. The Canadiens allowed more goals in the second period than they would score all game. Josh Anderson scored two goals and added an assist.

It’s almost comical that you think I was talking about Montreal’s 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. I wasn’t. Josh Anderson did not get two goals and an assist on Thursday night. I was talking about their 10-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 4... 2016.

The circumstances of that game were vastly different. You may remember that the Canadiens entered that game in 2016 with a record of 9-0-1. After the 10-0 loss, Montreal would win their next four games to go to 13-1-1. Over the next 43 games, they would go 18-18-7 before Michel Therrien was fired. This loss sent the Canadiens to a 3-9-0 start.

Four players in the game in 2016 were on the ice on Thursday: Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, and Artturi Lehkonen for Montreal and the aforementioned Anderson for Columbus. The Canadiens have fired two coaches since that game. They have gone through two captains. A lot has changed, but the loss to the Islanders felt so familiar.

Montreal got nothing going. They actually had possession of the puck, but didn’t really do anything with it. The first period was mostly even, but the Islanders got the first goal when Brock Nelson finished a nice pass from Kyle Palmieri behind the Canadiens defence. It was a two-on-two rush where the other team just executed better.

Then, the Canadiens actually started the second period strong. They got two chances in the opening minute, and had the run of play. In a familiar twist, the other team scored next. Oliver Wahlstrom took a shot without a Canadiens defenceman around him, and beat Jake Allen to make it 2-0 less than four minutes into the period.

It was a goal that would deflate the Bell Centre, and the Canadiens. If misery loves company, there was plenty to go around the 19.924 in attendance. The Islanders added three more goals before the end of the second period, and it was 5-0 faster than the Canadiens changed back to their old goal horn (less than seven minutes).

When things are not going your way, moral victories are meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time, it is something to build on. The Canadiens’ third period was one of those things. They dominated possession, drew penalties, and even scored twice. Sure, the Islanders weren’t pushing as hard — and they did still get some opportunities — but even the biggest buildings start being built with a single brick.

Nick Suzuki brought the Canadiens into the fight in the third period. He didn’t stop playing, and scored a goal and added a great assist in the third period.

When Montreal starts winning games, Suzuki will be a major part of that. Him gaining confidence — and producing — over the last two games is a positive sign. Samuel Montembeault also performed well in the third period after replacing Allen, saving all 10 shots he faced. Christian Dvorak and Tyler Toffoli combining for the team’s second goal after Suzuki’s attempt to make something happen is a positive development.

Even if the Canadiens struggle as a team, seeing their core players succeed is a good way to monitor progress for the organization.

Things won’t get easier for the Canadiens as they will continue their homestand on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.