The biggest ovation at the Bell Centre didn't come for Carey Price's stellar goaltending or for Brendan Gallagher's tiebreaking goal. It was for an assist by veteran defenseman Andrei Markov.
By flipping a pass to Artturi Lehkonen for a one-timer that beat Kari Lehtonen in Montreal's 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, Markov moved into a tie with Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe for second in career points by a Canadiens defenseman with 572, behind only Larry Robinson's 833.
When the assist was announced, the sellout crowd rose and applauded the Russian who has been a stalwart on the Montreal defense since 2000-01.
"I couldn't think of a guy that's more deserving," captain Max Pacioretty said. "In the years I've played with him, he's overcome so much adversity.
"I'm so happy for him. He's probably the best player I've played with."
Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov also scored for Montreal, which won a second game in a row. Price finished with 27 saves.
Curtis McKenzie scored for Dallas, which ended a four-game points streak. The Stars were playing for the first time since learning they had been eliminated from playoff contention. Kari Lehtonen had 32 saves.
Price and Lehtonen each needed to make a handful of excellent saves to keep the game close until Montreal broke it open with three third-period goals.
Gallagher put Monreal ahead 2-1 at 3:31 of the third as he got the puck, broke down the left side and beat Lehtonen with a high wrist shot inside the near post.
Even the much-anticipated Benn vs. Benn matchup turned out to be a snooze, as the Stars' Jamie Benn and Montreal defenseman Jordie Benn — acquired from Dallas in February — were only on the ice at the same time for a few brief moments in their first game against one another. The longest stretch was during a third-period Dallas power play.
"I skated by him on the bench once and punched him in the glove, but that's as close as I got to him," Jamie Benn said. "Losing is not fun, but playing against him was pretty fun.
"Not sure if we even had a shift together, but he looks good in the red and blue. We'll probably remember that one for a while."
The Stars dominated the opening minutes, outshooting Montreal 6-0, and got the first goal at 1:47 when McKenzie picked off a pass, fired a shot off the end glass and put the rebound into an open side.
The Canadiens got 15 of the next 16 shots on goal but it took until 15:49 of the second to tie the score as Pacioretty took a feed from Phillip Danault and saw his backhand shot trickle through Lehtonen's equipment for is 34th.
Lehkonen wired an off-wing shot inside the far post from distance at 13:02 of the third to put Montreal ahead 3-1. It came off a clever, space-opening pass Markov is known for.
"He's just got such a good mind for the game," Pacioretty said of Markov. "The little techniques of how he holds his stick in certain situations, the passes he makes. ... I said I never want him to retire because that's at least 10 goals a year. I think a lot of the left shots feel the same way because he's always finding us on the off wing. There's no one better at it."
Claude Julien remembers Markov from his first stint as Canadiens coach from 2003-06 and said he hasn't changed much.
"Like me, he had a lot more hair then," Julien said. "But he's the same player. ... He prepares well and he takes his job to heart. He's a really good example to our young players."
Radulov elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 and scored on a backhand with just over two minutes remaining.
NOTES: Canadiens backup G Al Montoya suffered a lower body injury in practice this week. Zach Fucale was called in from Brampton of the ECHL to take Montoya's place. ... Montreal's Nikita Nestorov and Brian Flynn returned from injuries this week but aren't yet ready to play. ... The Stars were without injured skaters Patrick Sharp, Antoine Roussel, Jiri Hudler and Jamie Oleksiak.
Stars: At Boston on Thursday night in the third game of a five-game trip.
Canadiens: Host Florida on Thursday night in the finale of a six-game homestand.