NEWARK, N.J. -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban knows one key to success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is making certain the power play is at least providing momentum in tight games.
That hasn't been the case for Montreal of late.
In a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Friday, the Canadiens finished 1-for-6 with the man-advantage, generating nine shots.
"We've played a lot of good hockey this year, and these next couple of games are important for us to continue to pay attention to the details and make sure we're sharp," Subban said. "There's no doubt in my mind that the power play needs to be better. It's been up and down, but there's been too many times, in my opinion, where we haven't been able to capitalize and it's been frustrating for everyone. It's not easy. This is the time of year we have to figure out what to do to put the puck in the net."
Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout to give the Devils their first win in seven games (1-4-2).
Stefan Matteau and Reid Boucher each scored his first of the season, and Keith Kinkaid made 31 saves for New Jersey (32-33-13).
Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Petry scored for the Canadiens (47-22-10); Dustin Tokarski made 16 saves.
Kinkaid stopped Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais in the shootout. Josefson scored in the second round and Elias in the third.
The Canadiens, who have lost five of the past six games (1-2-3), close their two-game road trip against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Montreal is in first place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Montreal, which allows an NHL-low 2.24 goals per game, has given up 11 in the past three, including a 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
With three regular-season games remaining, Subban said he believes the Canadiens power play needs to improve. It is 3-for-13 in the past three games.
"[The power play] factors into games, so if you think we're going to go through the whole playoffs and think that our power play is not going to be a factor for us, think again," Subban said. "You look at last year when it was a factor against [the Tampa Bay Lightning] and an even bigger factor for us against [the Boston Bruins], so whatever it is we have to figure it out.
"I'm not sitting here saying we didn't have opportunities, but when you get that many chances you have to find a way. You can't ask for more than that."
The Canadiens failed to take advantage of a five-minute power play in the second period when Devils forward Scott Gomez was given a major and a game misconduct for elbowing Alexei Emelin at 14:38. The defenseman knocked Gomez to the ice on a legal hit with his shoulder, and Gomez retaliated with his elbow a few seconds later in front of Tokarski.
The Devils penalty-killers limited the Canadiens to one shot on the advantage.
The Canadiens also failed on a 5-on-3 for 33 seconds late in the third period with Matteau (delay of game) and Andy Greene (tripping) in the penalty box. The Devils then denied the Canadiens during a 4-on-3 power play in overtime after another Greene tripping penalty at 2:39.
"The result is tough; we had some opportunities and their goalie played well," Tokarski said. "Come playoff time, shootouts don't happen, so I like our chances in overtime. We had back-to-back games and showed heart. We threw a lot on net."
The Devils tied it 2-2 in the second period when Boucher scored his first goal in eight NHL games this season. He deflected a shot from the left point by Jon Merrill past Tokarski at 4:37. The goal came less than a minute after Tokarski made a great save with his left pad against Damon Severson.
Plekanec and Petry scored in a span of 2:03 to give Montreal a 2-1 first-period lead.
Plekanec scored seven seconds into a power play after Merrill was whistled for interference at 14:39. With Brendan Gallagher providing a screen, Plekanec shot from the top of the right circle.
"Power plays are simple, in my opinion," Subban said. "You just [have] to get the puck, put it to the net and generate traffic. We can draw up 50 million different plays and switch positions, but when we've had success on our power play it was when we got the puck to the net, got traffic in front and were working hard for rebounds. That's what it takes to score on the power play nowadays and at this level."
Petry scored with a snap shot from the right circle at 16:42. The goal was the defenseman's third in 16 games with the Canadiens since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade March 2.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead when Matteau scored his second NHL goal off a rebound at the right post at 9:51. It was his first in the League since Feb. 9, 2013 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was the type of goal Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello would like to see more often.
"[Matteau] is a power forward and he needs to play like one," Lamoriello said. "He has size and strength and he has to get in the corners and finish checks. He's not a finesse player but does have skills."
The Devils play at the Metropolitan Division-champion New York Rangers on Saturday.
Tokarski was making his first start in four games in place of Carey Price; Tokarski allowed five goals in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on March 26.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien also opted to scratch veteran defenseman Andrei Markov. Markov, who hadn't missed a game this season and usually plays on the first power-play unit with Subban, was replaced by veteran Sergei Gonchar, coming off a nine-game absence.
"We wanted to give [Markov] some rest in a back-to-back game situation," Therrien said. "He's played a lot of hockey for us and has played big minutes. Approaching the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] we have to make sure we're smart with our decisions. Andrei wanted to play, and that's normal, but we have to manage his energy because [the start of the playoffs] is knocking on the door and we have to make sure we have energy in the tank."