NEWARK, New Jersey — With the playoffs just around the corner, the Montreal Canadiens picked the wrong time for a slump.
Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout and the New Jersey Devils snapped a season-high six-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the stumbling Canadiens on Friday night.
The loss was the third straight and fifth in six games for the first-place Canadiens, who have squandered a chance to open daylight in the Atlantic Division and hurt their chances of having the best record in the Eastern Conference.
This second shootout loss in as many nights was simple. The Canadiens were 1 for 6 on the power play despite having a five-minute major in the second period, a two-man advantage late in the third and a 4-on-3 chance in the overtime.
"We've played a lot of good hockey this year," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "These next couple of games are important for us to continue to play attention to details and make sure we're sharp. There's no doubt in my mind that the power play is where we have to be better. It's been up and down. This is the time of year where we have to figure out what we have to do to put the puck in the net."
The point gave the Canadiens 104 for the season and a two-point lead over Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division with three games left in the regular season. The Rangers lead the conference with 105 and have two games in hand.
"It's definitely a blown opportunity, two shootout loses in a row," said Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. "It's two points we can't take back. We had enough opportunities to close out this game. It's something we have to work on. "
Stefan Matteau and Reid Boucher, who were called up from the minors last month for a look-see with the Devils out of the playoff chase, scored for New Jersey and rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid made 31 saves.
"It doesn't matter how you get it done, it's good to get off the slide, especially against a top team like Montreal," Kinkaid said.
Tomas Plekanec and defenseman Jeff Petry scored for Montreal, while Dustin Tokarski made 16 saves in giving Carey Price a night off.
After Boucher and Alex Galchenyuk missed on their opening attempts in the shootout, Josefson gave the Devils the lead by beating Tokarski with a deke and a forehand into the top of the net.
David Desharnais got off a weak shot on the Canadiens' second attempt and Elias won the game with a move that got Tokarski out of position for an easy goal.
The Devils penalty kill and Kinkaid were the difference after giving up an early power-play goal. They limited Montreal to one shot on the five-minute major and killed off a 33-second two-man disadvantage in the final six minutes of regulation and another penalty in the overtime.
"They did a great job," Devils general manager and president Lou Lamoriello said. "They gave up that one quick one and after that just about killed everything."
Plekanec and Petry scored in a two-minute span in the first period to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead. But the Devils tied the game early in the second when Boucher deflected a point shot by defenseman Jon Merrill past Tokarski.
Matteau, who was called up from Albany of the AHL on Mar. 21 along with Boucher, had given the Devils the early lead, swatting the rebound of a shot by defenseman Adam Larsson past Tokarski at 9:51 of the opening period. It was his first goal of the season and second of his career for New Jersey's first-round draft pick in 2012.
Plekanec tied the game at 14:39 with a power-play goal. It came on a shot from the right circle just 7 seconds after Merrill was penalized for interference.
Petry intercepted a clearing attempt by Devils defenseman Damon Severson coming in from the right point and beat Kinkaid to the Canadiens ahead. Lars Eller appeared to tip the shot but Petry got credit for his seventh goal of the season.
Montreal had a great chance to take the lead late in the second period when veteran Devils center Scott Gomez was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing Alexei Emelin after the Canadiens defenseman sent him hard to the ice with a check.
"The power play was the story of the game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We were not able to generate anything."
NOTES: Larsson's 21 assists is tied for third on the Devils with Elias. ...Canadiens D Andrei Markov missed his first game of the season. Sergei Gonchar replaced him after sitting the last 10 and he had the primary assist on Plekanec's goal, which was his 199th with the Canadiens. ...D F Stephen Gionta missed the game with a back injury. ...Matteau's other goal was on Feb. 9, 2013. Boucher's last goal was Jan. 16, 2014. ...The game was a sellout (16,592), including a vocal Canadien contingent. Gomez's major was the third of his career and his first since the 2000 season. ...Montreal won the season series 2-1.
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