David Desharnais had two goals and an assist, and Montreal ended Detroit's seven-game winning streak with a 7-2 victory over the Red Wings on Wednesday night in the NHL's final game before the break.
The Canadiens put their first two shots of the second period past backup goalie Ty Conklin, who took over for Howard after the opening 20 minutes.
"I'm not going to watch any video of this, at all," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I'm going to have a drink. Actually, it is what I'm going to do."
Rene Bourque, Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Plekanec also scored. Tomas Kaberle had two assists. Carey Price stopped 25 shots for Montreal, which moved into 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points, one ahead of Tampa Bay.
"It's definitely nice to go into the break on a high note and maybe dwell on it for a couple of days because we haven't a whole lot of good to dwell on this year," said Price, who will make his third All-Star appearance. "I think we can sit on that for a little while, but when we come back, we know that we've got to get back to work."
Jiri Hudler scored a pair of third-period goals for Detroit, which leads the NHL with 67 points despite falling to 13-14 on the road. The Red Wings, who have won 17 straight home games, hadn't lost anywhere since a 5-1 defeat at the New York Islanders on Jan. 10.
"I think everyone in here was embarrassed with the performance tonight," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who assisted on Hudler's second goal.
The Red Wings extended their team-record, home-winning streak, with a 3-1 victory over St. Louis on Monday. They are 20-2-1 at the Joe Louis Arena this season.
Howard, pulled for just the second time in 42 starts, made eight saves in his shortest outing of the season. Conklin stopped 10 shots in the second relief appearance by a Detroit goalie this season, and his first since taking over for Howard for the third period of a 5-2 loss at San Jose on Nov. 17.
"I think you're a little surprised," Bourque said. "Detroit doesn't get behind by that many goals very often, so we put them back on their heels, got a lot of pucks at the net early, and got a lot of results."
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom sat out because of the flu, ending the defenseman's consecutive-games played streak at 213.
"Nick's a great player, but I don't think this had anything to do with Nick," Babcock said.
Bourque opened the scoring with his 15th goal 5:08 in. Scott Gomez's centering pass went in off Bourque's leg as he drove the crease.
Emelin made it 2-0 with a drive past Howard at 10:56. Desharnais scored his first of the game at 17:58, and Plekanec netted his 10th goal at 19:33 to make it 4-0. Andreas Enqvist just missed adding a fifth Montreal goal moments later.
Conklin took over to start the second, and Pacioretty beat him on the first shot he faced 1:52 in for his 17th goal. Desharnais got his second goal of the game - his ninth overall - on the Canadiens' next shot during a power play at 4:18.
"The guys kept pushing, and I think that's very important against a team like Detroit because they can pump four in on you in a hurry," said Price, who made a nice pad save late in a Red Wings' power play before the midway point of the second.
Hudler spoiled Price's shutout bid 21 seconds into the third, and added his 14th of the season at 6:07. Cole scored his team-leading 19th goal with 1:23 remaining.
Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was benched in the second period after taking an elbowing penalty late in the first.
- LW Justin Abdelkader has the Red Wings' longest current consecutive games streak at 124, one more than D Jonathan Ericsson. Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio holds the team record of 548.
- Canadiens LW Travis Moen and C Petteri Nokelainen didn't play because of undisclosed upper body injuries.