The Detroit net was empty with a minute and change to play Saturday, the Canadiens up 5-3, and Max Pacioretty was on the Habs bench, a yawning Red Wings cage perhaps hungry to swallow his 40th goal.

“Nah, I don’t want that,” Pacioretty joked in an empty dressing room much later. “I’d have gone out there, if asked, but I’d be looking to pass in that situation.”

The 25-year-old forward has put four pucks into empty nets this season and he’s heard enough grief from teammates about the fact.

“Four is a lot,” he said, grinning. “After my fourth (scored Feb. 6), I haven’t shot a lot.”

Given his recent tear — eight goals in his past six games — it seems reasonable to suggest that Pacioretty will score his milestone 40th before the regular season is done, three more games on the Habs schedule before playoffs begin next week.

It’s been two decades since a Canadien has scored 40, Vincent Damphousse last doing so during 84 games in 1993-94.

“People keep talking about 40, but I’m just worried about winning games,” Pacioretty said. “I contribute to this team most by scoring. If 40 happens, it happens. If not, we’re in a good position right now. We’re in a good spot in the standings and we feel good about ourselves.”

How laughable that the name of the Canadiens’ leading point-scorer the past two seasons would have swirled in trade rumours five months ago.