MONTREAL -- Jean Beliveau was cheered on by his wife, Elise, throughout his Hall of Fame career with the Montreal Canadiens. After he retired from the NHL in 1971, the couple kept rooting on their beloved team in person, for many years in the same seats three rows behind the Montreal bench at Bell Centre.
Tuesday night, Mrs. Beliveau was there as always, with the spirit of her late husband right beside her, and the Canadiens delivered her and her grieving family a thrilling victory that she joyfully celebrated with the puck from Tomas Plekanec's game-winning goal.
Plekanec scored with 4:14 left in the third period to help Montreal end its three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks in the Canadiens' first home game since Jean Beliveau died at the age of 83 on Dec. 2.
"It's been an unbelievable night," Plekanec said. "Obviously it was the most emotional night I've ever experienced in Montreal. I had chills all over the 10 minutes that was the ceremony, and it was unbelievable."
A moment of silence was observed, and the capacity crowd, officially reduced by one to 21,286, rose in a standing ovation at the end of a video tribute for Beliveau, whose funeral is Wednesday.
Beliveau's empty seat had his No. 4 jersey draped across the back and was illuminated by a spotlight during the ceremony and throughout the game.
"I couldn't stop looking in that direction," Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty said. "After the tribute I looked over there and Mrs. Beliveau blew us a kiss and said, 'Thank you,' you could see her saying that, and obviously it's tough to fight it back, but I feel at the end of the night she was so appreciative of the response that both the fans, the players, the management by putting that on, I feel like she was really appreciative of the night and that's what we were aiming for and that's what we talked about in the room before the game, so we were happy we were able to deliver."
After Pacioretty scored into an empty net with 0.2 seconds left in the third, Plekanec handed his goal puck to Canadiens physician Dr. David Mulder, who gave it to Mrs. Beliveau.
"It's a classy move from Tomas Plekanec, and tonight we deserved to win," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "It was a close game, and we had to battle all through the game, and it was a great gesture from Tomas to give the puck to Mrs. Beliveau."
Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller was moved by the ceremony.
"I thought it was an amazing tribute," said Miller, who made 22 saves. "With his wife, I actually kind of got a little bit choked up right there. You have such a bond with someone who's your spouse, someone who walked beside him like that, then to accept that standing ovation and you could see on her face how the relationship must have meant so much. I just kind of got choked up."
On the winning goal, Montreal rookie Sven Andrighetto drove the right side and made a centering pass to Plekanec, who put a shot into the top left corner from the slot.
"I took speed out of our own end and I got the puck at their end," said Andrighetto, who scored a goal in his NHL debut Saturday. "I saw (Plekanec) coming with me, and he was in the middle all by himself."
Brendan Gallagher scored in the second to put the Canadiens ahead 1-0, and Carey Price made 15 saves for Montreal, which had gone 1-5-1 in its previous six games.
Derek Dorsett scored a shorthanded goal for Vancouver, which ended a seven-game road trip, its longest of the season, with its third loss in a row (0-2-1).
"It would have been nice to get more (points)," Burrows said. "But if you look at it early in the year, with this two-week road trip, if we had said .500, I think we would have taken it. We played some good teams, and I think for us we got through it. Now we just need to keep improving and get better as a team."
Vancouver is 11-6-1 on the road.
"If you can go .500 on the road, you have a chance of being in the playoffs," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "But we had a chance to do better than that, we had what we needed. I didn't think we played bad in any of the games. Montreal's got a pretty good hockey team. You come in here, it's a big night, and they've got lots of guys that can play hard."
Dorsett drew Vancouver even at 1-1 at 11:56 of the second period with his second shorthanded goal of the season.
Jannik Hansen chased down Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa's clearing pass from deep in the Vancouver zone in the left faceoff circle of the Montreal zone. He fed a centering pass to Dorsett, who beat Montreal center David Desharnais down the ice to put a shot inside the right post for his fourth goal.
It was Vancouver's fourth shorthanded goal.
Gallagher scored his second goal in three games at 6:56 of the second. He snapped a wrist shot past Miller into the top right corner from the left faceoff dot for his eighth goal.
Price dove stick-first to his right and stopped Nick Bonino's shot on the goal line with his paddle at 1:04 of the first. A video review upheld the call on the ice that the puck had not entered the net.
Pacioretty's shot hit the right post on a shorthanded 2-on-1 pass from Plekanec at 16:51 of the second.