|Red Wings' defenseman Chris Chelios salutes the Bell Centre crowd after what was most likely his last game played in Montreal.
The sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre gave the 45-year-old defenseman a long ovation after Detroit’s 4-1 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday night. The crowd, which had booed the home team during the game, saluted Chelios, who began his career with Montreal in 1983-84.
“I can't be more thankful to the fans," said Chelios, who has said he has no plans to retire. "I broke into the league here and have nothing but great memories.
"My family, my boys, are watching this and we'll cherish this for sure. My first was born here. This is a perfect way to end it, if this is the end here."
Chelios was also part of a pregame ceremony held in honor of the long rivalry between the two teams on the occasion of the Wings’ first visit to Montreal since October 2003. The festivities included greats like Gordie Howe of the Wings and Jean Beliveau of the Canadiens.
The game itself belonged almost totally to the Wings, who won their fourth in a row. Pavel Datsyuk scored a pair of unassisted goals and Dominik Hasek stopped 15 shots.
Datsyuk scored the game’s first goal when he intercepted Montreal forward Steve Begin's pass in the Canadiens' zone, moved to the slot and beat rookie Carey Price at 16:40 ( 700K ).
After Montreal tied it at 4:15 of the second period on Chris Higgins’ backhander over Hasek ( 700K ), Datsyuk did it again, this time picking up Mark Streit’s ill-advised backpass in the neutral zone before coming in and beating Price with a wrist shot inside the far post at 11:08 ( 700K ).
''Before my goal, we had good chances and we didn't score,'' said Datsyuk, who has scored seven times during a five-game goal streak. ''Every shot is dangerous.''
Niklas Kronvall made it 3-1 at 13:45 when his slap shot from the point went through traffic and got past Price ( 700K ). Henrik Zetterberg’s 18th goal on a power play with 6:10 left in regulation completed the scoring ( 700K ).
“Once we settled down in the first period, I though we played really well offensively," said Detroit captain Niklas Lidstrom, who played 28:20 on defense. "We tried to sustain some pressure in their end and we were able to do that. We got some timely goals as well."
The Red Wings, now an NHL-best 19-6-2, dominated play for most of the evening, outshooting Montreal 34-16 overall and 16-5 in the second. The Canadiens have lost three in a row and five of their last six after a fast start.
''If you look at the first 15 games that we played, we played as a team,'' Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. ''We made the plays when the players were there, we stayed fresh on the ice, our passes were crisp, we received the pass well, if we had no play we put it in somewhere —we looked like a fast team. Now, because the confidence is not there, there's a lot of hesitation in our game.''
In the pregame ceremony, Howe was accompanied by Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost and Marcel Dionne. Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Jean-Guy Talbot, Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux represented Montreal, which celebrates its centennial in 2009. Chelios, who won a Cup with the Canadiens in 1986, served as co-captain in 1989-90 and was dealt to Chicago for an aging Denis Savard five years later, took part along with Carbonneau, the other co-captain.
Chelios got a standing ovation when he was announced as the third star following the game.
''I don't know about the star thing, I think it might have been to help me go out there and say goodbye,'' said Chelios. ''It was nice of them. I had the intention of going out there anyway, whether I had gotten that or not, so it worked out perfectly. It was a great evening for our team and for myself and I can't thank enough what the Montreal Canadiens, my teammates and the fans have done for me here, teaching me what this game is all about.''
Material from wire services was used in this report.