Elias surpassed John MacLean for the franchise mark with 93 power-play goals. (Getty/NHL Images)
A Joffrey Lupul hat trick spoiled Martin Brodeur's return to the lineup on Wednesday.
Brodeur was back between the pipes after missing six games with a right shoulder injury, and made 18 saves in a 5-3 loss to visiting Toronto.
It was Brodeur's third start of the season, and first since Oct. 13 against Los Angeles.
"Tough game," Brodeur said. "Getting scored on five [times] at home, it's no way to try and win hockey games, definitely. We scored three goals, we had two goals on the power play, that should have been enough to at least have a better chance to be in the game."
Lupul collected all three of his tallies in the second period, when the teams combined for five goals. His third career hat trick sealed the Devils' third straight loss.
Power-play goals by Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias and a breakaway strike by David Clarkson helped the Devils rally back from three one-goal deficits. Lupul broke a 3-3 tie in the second to put Toronto ahead for good.
"We just have to stick with it," Coach Peter DeBoer said. "We obviously have to fix a few things from tonight's game, tighten up around our net. We created, I thought, enough chances to win the game, we just gave up too many and that's something we have to fix."
For me it was a big test to go through the game. I definitely would've liked a better result. I didn't play well at all, but at least I got my game under my belt and that was important for me.- Martin Brodeur
After a nearly three-week layoff, Brodeur felt better as the game went on. He made a brilliant stick save on Phil Kessel in the third period that had the NHL's leading scorer smiling afterward.
Brodeur was injured making a similar save on Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
"That was a good test for my shoulder," Brodeur said. "That's exactly the way I got hurt, so I was able to get up with no pain, nothing. I was happy about that, I had a little smile on my face. When I got up, I knew, 'OK, this is good.'
"It's always tough when you come back from an injury when you know you didn't fix it, you just rehabbed it. It's a lot different when you do a surgery. For me it was a big test to go through the game. I definitely would've liked a better result. I didn't play well at all, but at least I got my game under my belt and that was important for me."
DeBoer credited Brodeur's effort. The Devils outshot the Maple Leafs, 23-22, but allowed the Northeast Division leaders too many quality scoring chances.
"I thought we had a goalie that worked hard to give us a chance to get back in here," DeBoer said. "Marty's worked his butt off to rehab and I didn't think we did a good job around him tonight, supporting him considering the circumstances."
Clarkson dropped gloves with Luke Schenn. (Getty/NHL Images)
Elias set a new franchise mark with his 93rd career power-play goal, surpassing John MacLean. Adam Larsson set up the tally for his first career NHL point.
"I would rather take a win and not get on the scoreboard," said Elias, who leads the Devils with five goals. "We've lost [five of six] and we have to stop it. We can't just satisfied with the way we played at certain times. We just need to find a way to win, that's the bottom line."
Elias forgot to grab the puck, but was happy to have been a part of Larsson's milestone.
"I think there's many more coming for him, obviously, he's a great player," Elias said. "You cannot forget he's only 18 years old and he's playing a lot of important minutes and situations. He'll be great. A great player."
The Devils (4-5-1) visit Philadelphia on Thursday. Johan Hedberg is expected to split the back-to-back and start against the Flyers.
"They're a good team," Clarkson said. "It's always a rivalry between us and them. We've just got to come out and want it more. Philly's always a tough building to go into, but we've got to go in there and play the game that we know we can play in this room. I think if we do that, we're going to be successful on most nights."
Joey Crabb opened the scoring in the first, batting a puck out of the air for a 1-0 Toronto lead at 8:37.
The Devils snapped a four-game drought on the power play to tie it up. Adam Henrique used good speed to bring the puck up ice and got it back from Zubrus for a shot on goal. Zubrus crashed the net for the rebound and his third of the year at 12:16.
Mikhail Grabovski put Toronto back on top with four minutes to go in the first. He took a slap pass from Jake Gardiner at the right circle and flipped in his fifth to make it 2-1. That came moments after Jonas Gustavsson had robbed Nick Palmieri, when Mark Fayne's dump-in took a crazy carom to the front of the Toronto net.
Early in the second, Kovalchuk sent Petr Sykora in alone for a breakaway as he exited the penalty box, but Sykora was denied by Gustavsson. Sykora also had a look at an open net in the middle frame only to be stopped by Dion Phaneuf's sliding block.
It was 2-2 after Elias one-timed a Larsson pass from the right circle at 3:29. The Devils, who had three power-play goals in their first nine games, finished 2-for-2 with the man advantage.
Lupul got his first of the game off of a Mike Komisarek rebound in front. It was 3-3 after Clarkson took a pass from Palmieri and broke in alone on Gustavsson, tucking a backhander inside the right post at 8:15 for his third of the season.
Lupul responded 90 seconds later with a wrister that found the back of the net from the right circle. He got his third with a second effort on his own rebound at 13:13.
Notes and quotes
The Devils have come up short three times since their impressive victory at Los Angeles on Oct. 25. Elias said that while the team is getting its chances, they need a complete effort to get back into the wins column.
"I think that this game, the Dallas game and Phoenix, I really think that we could have won all three of them if we played the way we're capable of," Elias said. "We had spurts during that stretch, but that's not good enough. You have to play 60 minutes. You cannot have one good game then give up two, three goals a game as a line and not produce offensively. We need to have everybody pitching in to play well but play responsible defensively. I think that's going to lead us to get more opportunities offensively and score more goals."