MONTREAL (AP) — Canadiens coach Claude Julien said it looked like Tomas Plekanec “drank from the fountain of youth” before playing in his 1,000th game Monday night.
Plekanec scored in his milestone game, and Jonathan Drouin added two goals to lead Montreal to a 7-3 victory over the winless Detroit Red Wings.
Julien was also behind the bench for Plekanec’s very first NHL game in 2003.
“He was really skating well, he had lots of energy,” said Julien, who also coached Plekanec in his first NHL game in 2003. “You could see he was excited to play his 1,000th game and he wanted it to be a good memory for him. … I was fortunate to coach him in his first year and I’m fortunate enough to still be around him for his 1,000th game. It’s a privilege.”
Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon and Paul Byron also scored for the Canadiens. With Carey Price still out with the flu, backup goalie Antti Niemi stopped 25 shots for his second consecutive victory.
The 35-year-old Plekanec became the 324th player in NHL history, and the 13th active NHLer, to reach the 1,000-game plateau. The Czech native is the 12th Canadiens player to reach that milestone, joining an elite group that includes Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard and Larry Robinson.
The crowd showed their appreciation with a standing ovation in the first period.
“It was special,” Plekanec said of the ovation. “I’ve been here for so long and I know the crowd is unbelievable here and I love to play here at the Bell Centre and they showed it again tonight.
“It was awesome of course. It feels great. I would never dream of something like that when I started here. It was a hell of a ride.”
Plekanec became only the fourth Canadiens player to score in his 1,000th game.
Andreas Athanasiou had two goals and Thomas Vanek also scored for the rebuilding Wings, who are winless through six games (0-4-2) for their worst start in franchise history. Jimmy Howard gave up five goals on 20 shots before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier in the second period. Bernier finished with 13 saves.
The Red Wings, who were coming off an 8-2 loss to Boston, have now allowed an NHL-worst 29 goals over six games.
“We can’t just fall apart like that and start running around with our heads off,” Detroit veteran Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to show some pride. Enough is enough. We’re not even giving ourselves a chance right now.”
After Drouin opened the scoring for Montreal on a penalty shot at 7:13 of the first, Plekanec made it 2-0 by shooting a puck on goal that Filip Hronek deflected past his own goalie at 16:56.
It was Plekanec’s 233rd NHL goal, all with the Canadiens.
“We won this game for him,” Canadiens forward Max Domi said. “We have so much respect for Pleky as a player and as a person. We’re all so happy for him. He deserves every bit of credit he gets. It’s cool to be a part of. Hopefully he plays 1,000 more.”
Gallagher got his third of the season at 3:52 of the second on a nice pass from Tatar. Hudon made it 5-1 less than a minute later.
Drouin, on the power play, scored his second of the game with just over 4 minutes remaining in the period as he shovelled a loose puck past a sprawled-out Bernier.
Athanasiou pulled the Red Wings to 6-2 at 7:30 and Vanek caught Niemi looking the wrong way on a wraparound at 10:11 for his first point of the season.
Byron added Montreal’s seventh goal of the game with 1:49 remaining.