MONTREAL (AP) Very quietly, Tomas Plekanec has moved up the Montreal Canadiens’ all-time scoring list.
A goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday gave the 35-year-old 601 career points.
He sits 13th in scoring in a lineup of mostly all-time greats that include Guy Lafleur, Jean Beliveau, Maurice (Rocket) Richard and many others.
”Whoever told me that before, I would not believe it and I’d think they were crazy,” said Plekanec, a third-round draft pick in 2001 who became a Canadiens regular in 2005. ”But it’s definitely nice and I’m really happy about it.
”A lot of credit goes to the linemates and teammates I had over the years that I was able to put up some numbers even while playing a two-way game.”
His 370th assist moved Plekanec into 12th place in career helpers on the team’s list, one ahead of Mats Naslund and one behind defender Doug Harvey. Naslund remains 12th in points with 612.
Plekanec doesn’t put up points like he used to, but is still highly valued as a checking center who can play against opponents’ top lines and perform in difficult situations. At his peak, the 5-foot-11 Czech had 29 goals and 69 points in 2007-08 and a career-high 70 points in 2009-10.
Last season, the first on a two-year contract worth $6 million per season, he dropped to 10 goals and 28 points. His output Sunday gave him five goals and 15 assists in 53 games this season.
Despite not putting up many points, Plekanec is the team’s only regular forward who has played since the start of the season to be on the positive side of the plus-minus statistic.
”That’s what happens throughout a career – the role changes,” he said. ”You get older, you get different kinds of assignments.
”I was so fortunate to play with guys like Kovy (Alex Kovalev) and (Andrei) Kostitsyn at the time and some other guys who helped me so much offensively to put up some numbers. I’m not a numbers guy. I’m not big on stats, but it’s a good feeling.”
Another of Plekanec’s strengths is helping young players to develop. It showed against Ottawa as his linemate Artturi Lehkonen broke out of a 24-game scoring slump with a pair of goals.
Lehkonen had not scored since he had two goals on Oct. 30 in an 8-3 win over the Senators in Ottawa.
”It’s a tough situation,” said Lehkonen, who has only four goals after scoring 18 as a rookie last season. ”You don’t want to be in that situation, but there’s nothing else you can do but keep a positive attitude, keep working as hard as you can.
”You can’t feel sorry for yourself that you’ve not been scoring. That doesn’t help you at all.”
Jeff Petry, with his third goal in two games, also scored for the Canadiens, who were coming off a win over Anaheim on Saturday.
Mike Hoffman scored for the Senators, who had won their previous two games, including a shootout victory Saturday in Philadelphia.
Montreal outshot Ottawa 35-26.
After a listless opening period for both teams, Hoffman opened the scoring 2:05 into the second when he picked off a soft David Schlemko pass at the Montreal blue line and beat Carey Price with a wrist shot from the slot.
The Canadiens scored twice after Mark Borowiecki was sent off for hooking, followed 34 seconds later by a double high-sticking call on Erik Karlsson.
Petry scored on a blast from the right circle at 6:16. Lehkonen took a Nikita Scherbak pass and lifted the puck over Mike Condon at the side of the net about a minute and a half later.
”That five-on-three was a game-changer,” said Derick Brassard. ”It was obviously a penalty, but I don’t think Karlsson wanted to do that.
”It was just a bad accident. It was hard to get on the forecheck after that. That was basically the game. The first period was good. The third period we tried to do a push but couldn’t get the goal.”
Plekanec, for his 600th point, made a back pass to a wide open Lehkonen for a goal into an open net with 1:18 left in the second period. With 3:03 remaining in the game, Thomas Chabot had a pass attempt slide off the heel of his stick and go right to Plekanec alone in front of Condon for an easy goal.
NOTES: Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin, who left Saturday’s game for X-rays after being hit in the upper body by a shot, was back in the lineup. … The Canadiens have been playing two afternoon games on Super Bowl weekend since 1990-91, compiling a 29-19-6 record.
Senators: Host New Jersey on Tuesday night.
Canadiens: At Philadelphia on Thursday night.
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