Zach Parise is coming off a three-point night in Game 4
On Saturday he was vilified for not speaking with the media following a loss in Game 3, perhaps not wanting to add any fuel to the fire his father supposedly started regarding his future NHL destination.
Four days later and he's once again being hailed as a hero following a two-goal, one assist performance in a 4-1 win that tied the series.
"It was the same," said Parise following Game 4. "Just the puck happened to go in tonight. That's the difference."
The Minneapolis native and former University of North Dakota star had four goals and five assists through the first two rounds of this year's playoffs against Florida and Philadelphia, but didn't get off to a good start in the Eastern Conference final against the rival New York Rangers.
Through the first three games he was minus-4 with one assist despite having nine shots on goal, with New Jersey losing two of those three games, and failing to score in both of those defeats.
That changed on Monday night in Newark, when No. 9 orchestrated the Devils' second goal and then scored their last two.
First he set up linemate Travis Zajac for a one-timer in the low left circle for a 2-0 lead to close out the first period. After a scoreless second stanza, Parise struck just four seconds into a third-period power play for his first goal since May 3 when he knocked the rebound of an Ilya Kovalchuk shot past a suddenly-human Henrik Lundqvist.
Then, in the final minutes, with the Rangers pressing to get within a goal, Parise picked up a loose puck sent around the left boards by goaltender Martin Brodeur. He wheeled, flicked his wrists, and rolled the disk all the way down the Prudential Center ice into an empty New York net to put matters to rest for another night, and pull the sixth-seeded Devils back into a series tie with the East's No. 1 seed.
“I knew he would respond,” said Devils head coach Pete DeBoer of Parise.
Seemingly fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in 2010 at Los Angeles, where he may be headed late next week if the Devils can polish off the Rangers, Parise has shown as much of his trademark hustle and tenacity as ever in these playoffs, even if the results haven't always been there.
"These games are so tight, when you get the opportunities, you want to put them in," he said. "Last game we didn’t — I didn’t. Tonight they went in."
An unrestricted free agent, he may also be inking a new contract sometime this summer to stay in New Jersey, considering the Devils are in the midst of their longest playoff run in nine years, and just six wins from a possible championship.
Not a bad time to be No. 9, after all.