DETROIT -- The Montreal Canadiens started fast and finished strong to overcome a rough patch in between.
Max Pacioretty broke a third-period tie, Tomas Plekanec scored twice and Montreal beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 Thursday night.
The Canadiens jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and led 3-1 going into the third. But Detroit's Tomas Tatar scored twice during a span of 3:06 early in the third period to tie it.
Pacioretty restored the Canadiens' lead 5:48 into the third and Thomas Vanek added a goal with 8:45 left.
"The second and third periods weren't good at all. We got lucky that we found a way to win," Plekanec said.
Vanek added two assists and David Desharnais had a goal and an assist for Montreal. P.K. Subban had two assists and Carey Price made 26 saves.
"It doesn't matter if you win 1-0 or 10-9 at this point. It all adds up the same," Price said.
Canadiens' coach Michel Therrien praised the line of Desharnais between Vanek and Pacioretty.
"They were true leaders the way they played. They were playing all over the ice, they were hungry and did the right things."
Tatar's goals were his 17th and 18th. Riley Sheahan added a goal and an assist, and Johan Franzen also scored for Detroit. Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots.
"From the start. We weren't very good in the first period, starting with myself. We were turning the pucks over all over the ice, we weren't skating and we weren't working," Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "But in saying that, we were still in the game somehow. Howie (Howard) kept us in there, gave us a chance.
"We make it 3-3, then they go up 4-3, 5-3 and we score right away again and it's still a game, but all in all we have to be better than this."
Franzen brought the Red Wings to within one, 21 seconds after Vanek's goal. It was Franzen's 16th goal and broke a nine-game goal-scoring drought.
"I thought we played good and had lots of opportunity as far as offensively. We were just poor in our own zone on sort outs, on face-offs, which is just an easy thing to do. So for whatever reason we didn't get that done," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "But my big thing here today is just, as we said earlier, catch-up hockey is losing hockey. You've got to get prepared, you've got to play right and you have to do it for 60 minutes and be patient. When you start chasing the game like we were tonight anything can happen. It's entertaining and all that for the fans but it's not a recipe for success whatsoever."
Sheahan put the Red Wings on the board and cut the Canadiens' lead to 2-1 with his sixth goal 1:28 into the second period.
Desharnais restored Montreal's two-goal lead with 8:57 remaining in the middle period on his 14th goal.
Plekanec's two goals gave Montreal a 2-0 lead in the first period.
He opened the scoring 7:49 into the game, then got his 20th goal with 5:49 left in the opening period.
NOTE: Detroit RW Tomas Jurco returned after missing seven games with a broken rib. ... Montreal LW Travis Moen missed his second game with a concussion. ... Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed 13 games with a sore knee, is skating but there's no timetable for his return. ... Detroit C Henrik Zetterberg, who had back surgery on Feb. 21, won't be cleared for contact until April 18-19. ... Pacioretty played college hockey at the University of Michigan. ... Montreal D Mike Weaver played college hockey at Michigan State. ... Canadiens' RW Dale Weise missed his second game with an upper-body injury.