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Lupul's hat trick leads Leafs past Devils

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur's highway-robbery stick save on Phil Kessel in the third period will be played over and over on every highlight show. So, too, will Joffrey Lupul's three goals on Brodeur in the second period.

Brodeur showed plenty of rust and only a small sampling of his Hall of Fame ways in his first game back from a shoulder injury he suffered nearly three weeks ago. The save on Kessel was spectacular and it gave him confidence that his right shoulder is indeed OK, but it couldn't erase what had already transpired: Lupul's hat trick in a span of 6:42 in the second period led Toronto over Brodeur and the Devils 5-3 on Wednesday night at Prudential Center.

Joey Crabb and Mikhail Grabovski also scored for the Maple Leafs. Kessel added to his NHL-leading point total with two assists to give him 20 points in 12 games.

The Leafs move on to play in Columbus on Thursday while the Devils will try to snap a three-game losing streak in Philadelphia with Johan Hedberg in net.

"Anyone, whether it's Marty Brodeur or not, if they're coming off an injury and haven't played for three weeks, you want to test that guy," Lupul said. "We thought in the first period he did look a little bit shaky like he'd been off for a while. We decided to throw as many pucks as we could at him in the second and it paid off. He seemed to settle in a bit more as the game went on, but definitely when you have a goalie coming back off a layoff like that you want to try to utilize it."

The Leafs only tested Brodeur with 23 shots on goal, but they created several prime scoring chances off good puck movement and a soft Devils defense that looked far too disjointed at times.

"Marty has worked his butt off to rehab and I didn't think we did a good job around him, supporting him considering the circumstances," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We didn't give up a huge number of shots, but we gave up some quality chances. We left some people unchecked. Three goals should be enough for us to win a game and it wasn't."

Toronto coach Ron Wilson didn't think his team was that much better in certain areas of the game, but he was pleased with how Jonas Gustavsson (19 saves) responded in his seventh straight start and he liked that the players were supporting one another.

"It's a little harrowing at times," said Wilson, who hopes No. 1 goaltender James Reimer will be able to start in Columbus. "It's like you're in one of those motorcycles and you're in the sidecar and you have no idea which way the driver is going, but you get to your destination. That's what it feels like at the end of the game. We make some decisions and other guys have to bail their teammates out. At least we were in good support positions (Wednesday night)."

Asked if that means the Leafs can't take much out of Wednesday's game other than the two points, Wilson replied, "No, I'm happy we won. Now we're starting to get picky on how we win. We're 8-3-1, started the month off on the right foot on the road, and now we put this behind us to get ready for (Thursday) night.

"Step on their head and climb a little higher, that's what we're trying to do right now."

All Brodeur is trying to do is find some kind of rhythm. He admittedly fought his confidence in the first period and a half Wednesday night because he did not know if he could fully trust his balky right shoulder, which he hurt against Los Angeles on Oct. 13. Ironically, Brodeur finally realized that his shoulder was reacting just fine during the sequence that led to Lupul's hat-trick goal with 6:47 left in the second period.

"I moved really quick, and that kind of gave me an idea that I was able to push," Brodeur said. "From there I felt confident and played well."

He stopped the final nine shots he faced, including all seven in the third period, but the Devils couldn't get any kind of push going in the final 20 minutes. Toronto held them to five shots on goal while rolling all four lines and three D-pairs.

"We didn't give up much obviously, but when you're down two goals you have to keep pressing, keep throwing pucks at the net," said Patrik Elias, whose power-play goal in the second period was the 93rd of his career, moving him into first place on the franchise's all-time list. "I don't know, what we'd have four or five shots, that's not good enough."

Neither was Brodeur in the first 40 minutes.

"I didn't play well at all," Brodeur said.

The Devils and Leafs traded goals until just before the halfway point of the game. Each time Toronto would take the lead, and New Jersey would have an answer, including twice on the power play.

However, Lupul scored back-to-back goals in less than four minutes to give the Leafs their two-goal cushion heading into the second intermission. He beat Brodeur with a soft shot from the right circle that appeared to tick off Henrik Tallinder's stick -- handcuffing Brodeur, who had the puck go through his left arm and his left side.

"Everyone seemed to leave me and I think my shot went off the defenseman's stick, and that's why it fooled him," Lupul said. "Not the prettiest goal, but all night we were saying he hadn't played in a long time so we want to get as many pucks to the net as we could. That was just lucky there."

"Who cares if it hits the stick, it's not a good goal," added Brodeur.

Lupul didn't need much luck on his hat-trick goal. Brodeur stopped Kessel's shot off the rush from between the circles, but Grabovski gathered the puck and carried it behind the net, eventually feeding Lupul in the slot. Lupul's first attempt was stopped by Brodeur, but the rebound came right to him and this time he stuffed it past Brodeur.

"It does mean a little bit more," Lupul said of scoring a hat trick against Brodeur, the NHL's all-time leader in wins. "I played a ton against this guy when I was in Philly and he seems to always have my number. So, it's pretty cool to do it against him."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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