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Claude Julien moves on from 1,000th NHL game as coach

Focuses on getting Canadiens on track after lackluster performance against Islanders

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

Julien coaches 1,000th game

NYI@MTL: Claude Julien honored during game No. 1,000

Claude Julien is honored on the Bell Centre scoreboard as he coaches in his 1,000th NHL game

  • 01:51 •

MONTREAL -- Claude Julien didn't want to celebrate his 1,000th NHL game prior to his Montreal Canadiens facing the New York Islanders on Thursday at Bell Centre, the same building where he coached his first game 14 years earlier.

Julien would have preferred to celebrate afterwards.

"To be honest with you, it's more my personality," said Julien, who asked the Canadiens not to have a pregame ceremony to commemorate the milestone as they had planned to do. "It's great that I've had 1,000 games, but I didn't want to be, I guess before a game, be the center of attention.

"I wanted to just win that game more than I wanted to celebrate it. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."

The Canadiens didn't allow it to happen by displaying many of the same traits that led general manager Marc Bergevin to fire Michel Therrien and replace him with Julien on Feb. 14.

Montreal lost 3-0 to New York, shut out for the fourth time in eight games, committing sloppy turnovers all game and spending very little time in the Islanders zone.

The Canadiens showed a video on the scoreboard during the first television timeout of the first period showing Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson handing Julien and his family a gift to mark the milestone prior to the game. The fans rose and gave Julien a standing ovation, and he gave them a quick wave of the hand before getting back to work, visibly uncomfortable with the situation.

It was a show of support for someone who got his first NHL coaching job with the Canadiens on Jan. 17, 2003, and lost his first game one night later at Bell Centre, 3-2 in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

By the end of the night, however, those same fans were booing the performance put forth by Julien's team, which ran its record to 2-7-1 in February.

It was a display of the highs and lows that come with coaching in Montreal, but the fans' dissatisfaction also demonstrated just how much work Julien has in front of him.

The Canadiens had a similarly poor performance in a 3-1 loss at home to the Winnipeg Jets in Julien's first game Saturday, played significantly better in winning 3-2 in a shootout at the New York Rangers on Tuesday, and then came back with a sleepy effort against the Islanders.

"We looked like two different teams from New York to tonight, or even Winnipeg," Julien said. "These two games at home I don't think we've played close to the way I would like to see our team play. … We have to fix what we have to fix here. In order to have an identity as a team, we need to have consistency, and we haven't had consistency in the three games I've been here."

That lack of consistency is the result of a lack of confidence, which predates Julien's arrival and is probably the biggest thing he needs to fix. When he was first hired, Julien said he would make it a point to remind the Canadiens that they are a good team, one that has led the Atlantic Division every day this season, but one that could fall to second place if the Ottawa Senators win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-CR, TSN5, RDS).

The Senators (32-20-6) are two points behind the Canadiens (32-21-8) in the division standings with three games in hand.

"It seems like at times when you don't have confidence we're just content with going out there, make it look like you're working hard," Montreal captain Max Pacioretty said. "You've got to want to be a difference-maker, every time you're on the ice you've got to want to change the game. Whether that comes with confidence or, I'm not sure how to get it, but everyone's got to have that mindset, and it's obvious that that's not the mindset."

It is just as obvious that is what Julien needs to change, and he needs to change it before the Canadiens' next game, at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, CITY, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

It will be no easy task.

Most of the Canadiens went through a slide down the standings last season that they never stopped, and most of the comments they made after the game Thursday sounded a lot like what they were saying a year ago.

"There's certainly a lack of confidence when you don't score, you can see the guys are frustrated," Julien said. "The execution, the plays that don't become scoring chances, those things are totally confidence."

Julien has made some tactical changes and has moved some of his players around the lineup since he was hired last week, but none of that will matter if he doesn't find a way to make the Canadiens believe in themselves again.

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