Brodeur had missed 13 games due to soreness in his back and he celebrated his return in unusual fashion.
With less than 4 minutes having gone by in a scoreless game, Brodeur stopped Carolina's Jeff Skinner on a breakaway attempt, but New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky was called for hooking.
Because it was a delayed penalty, Carolina goaltender Dan Ellis left his net to bring on an extra attacker. Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal controlled the puck and sent a pass to the left point, but there was no one there to collect it and the puck bounced off the boards.
It then traveled the length of the ice and slid into an empty net. Because Brodeur was the last member of the Devils to touch the puck, he was given the goal.
That turn of events stunned the Hurricanes, who fell behind 3-0 through two periods on additional goals from Adam Enrique and Peter Harrold.
Jeff Skinner scored the only goal against Brodeur, who recorded the 665th regular-season victory of his record-breaking career.
Ellis gave up all four New Jersey goals on 22 shots in what was the Hurricanes' fifth straight loss.