Canadiens end season by beating Maple Leafs
Erik Cole scores 35th, Tomas Plekanec scores 3-on-5 short-handed marker
Tomas Plekanec scored a rare short-handed goal with his team down two players as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the rival Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 in the final NHL regular season game for two teams eliminated from post-season play.
Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole and Brad Staubitz also scored for Montreal (31-25-16), which finished last in the Eastern Conference. Staubitz's goal into an empty net at 18:02 of the third period was his first point in 62 games this season.
The Leafs outshot Montreal 31-27.
Dion Phaneuf scored for Toronto (35-37-10), whose promising start to the season was done in by a 7-18-4 record over the last two months.
There was not much to play for but pride and final draft positions for both clubs, but they played with energy even if the physical side was quieter than usual.
And there was little of the buzz around the city usually found for a Leafs visit, or much of the competing chants from fans in the seats, as both of Canada's Original Six teams missed the playoffs. There were even dozens of empty seats, although the game was called a sellout.
But it ended with fans singing "Ole Ole" as the home side closed with a win.
A two-man advantage for 61 seconds turned into disaster for Toronto as Plekanec chipped the puck away from Jake Gardiner at the point and skated in alone to score 3:20 into the game.
The Czech centre didn't get a shot off, but the puck slid under goaltender Ben Scrivens just the same. Toronto did not get a shot on goal during the power play.
It was the second goal scored while two men down in the NHL this season, after Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke did it against Philadelphia on Feb. 18. And it was the first by a Canadien since March 24, 1983, when Guy Carbonneau scored against the Minnesota North Stars.
Montreal caught the Leafs on a bad line change to get a 3-on-2 break, and Pacioretty opted to shoot and beat Scrivens with a high shot from close range 1:18 into the second frame.
Phaneuf put Toronto on the board 25 seconds into the third when his shot from the left point got through traffic and over Peter Budaj's glove. That finally prompted "Go Leafs Go" chants from the Toronto fans.
Cole restored the two-goal advantage at 4:07 when he broke in alone on a counterattack and flipped the puck over Scrivens' glove for his 35th goal of the campaign.
The teams split the season series at three wins apiece.