(Reuters) - Joffrey Lupul's second period hat-trick steered the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, the virtuoso performance ruining home goaltender Martin Brodeur's return from injury.
Lupul single-handedly took control of a 2-2 tie in the second by netting three times in less than seven minutes to send the struggling Devils to their third straight loss.
New Jersey (4-5-1) had hoped to reverse their slide with Brodeur's first game since he injured his right shoulder three weeks ago, but the experienced goaltender allowed five goals from 23 shots.
Brodeur did manage a spectacular stick save against NHL points leader Phil Kessel, who recorded two assists, in the third period, but the damage had already been done.
"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 told reporters.
"It does mean a little bit more (to get a hat-trick against Brodeur). It's pretty cool to do it against him."
Toronto's Joey Crabb and Mikhail Grabovski gave the visitors a 2-1 advantage in the first period, where New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus also scored, and Patrik Elias tied the game for the Devils at 3:29 in the second.
Lupul then went to work in the second, starting with a snap shot at 6:31. New Jersey's David Clarkson made it 3-3 a minute and a half later but Lupul added a wrist shot before following it up with a final goal at 13:13.
The win helped the Maple Leafs (8-3-1) avoid their first consecutive losses of the season and stretched their lead in the Northeast Division to three points over Ottawa.
New Jersey was returning home after a tough road trip that saw them finish 1-3-0 and they have now lost five of their last six overall.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)