Parise 'heartbeat' of Devils

Devils forward Zach Parise shoots the puck during practice in El Segundo, Calif., June 3, 2012....

Devils forward Zach Parise shoots the puck during practice in El Segundo, Calif., June 3, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:06 AM ET

NEWARK - Saturday morning, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer was discussing his captain and had no concern that Zach Parise had gone without a point through the first four games of the Stanley Cup final.

“Zach’s game is so much more than the stat line,” DeBoer said. “He’s the heartbeat of our team. He’s the identity of our team. He forechecks, he backchecks, he kills penalties, plays in all situations. He really is our barometer. He’s the guy that makes us go, whether he is scoring or not.”

Well, Parise not only inspired Saturday night in Game 5 of the final against the Los Angeles Kings with his customary hustle, but he put his scoring skid to bed with an unassisted goal in the first period at the Prudential Center.

Parise jumped on a rare mistake by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, picking up the puck after Quick played it off the end boards and depositing it into the net before the netminder could get back into position.

DeBoer had talked about how important the first goal would be. And there was Parise providing it.

“I go into every game expecting Zach to do something big,” DeBoer said. “He’s that type of player. I think you guys just pissed him off, that’s all.”

Was it true? Did the 27-year-old Parise really need the media to rev him up prior to what was the biggest game of his NHL career?

Uh, no.

“I understand you guys have a job to do,” Parise said. “No disrespect, but I don’t read or listen to what you guys say. (Questioning the lack of scoring) doesn’t bother me one way or another. I understand it comes with the territory, where we are, what’s expected of certain players.

“You feel, when you’re getting the opportunities, that if we kept working hard, the puck was eventually going to go in for us. Those guys play a really tough defensive game. They don’t give you a lot. It’s tough to get in the zone.”

Parise’s goal at 12:45 of the opening period certainly gave his teammates a lift. Until then, the Devils had played surprisingly poor, playing jittery hockey and giving up the puck far too much for DeBoer’s liking.

But when Parise scored his first goal since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers, whatever doubt there might have been about him began to disappear.

“He is our captain, he is inspiring to all of us,” Devils forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. “His work ethic, just battles for the puck, he is not a big guy but he is pretty quick. He is relentless on the puck all the time. He makes the defencemen turn the puck over.”

And if the lack of production had been bothering Parise, he was not showing it in the dressing room.

“He stays calm,” Adam Henrique said. “A lot of people get on him about scoring, but he has other things to contribute to the team. It was nice to see him to get that first one. He played another great game.

“He is probably the hardest working guy in the league, there is no doubt in my mind.”

The only thing about Parise that should trouble Devils fans is he is going to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if general manager Lou Lamoriello can’t hammer out a new deal with him before then.

There is not going to be another forward available, certainly not in free agency, with the star power of Parise. He’s no Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Steven Stamkos, but he is the kind of player that is a cornerstone.

And for one at least more night, Monday in Los Angeles, Parise will have another shot to keep building toward a Cup with the Devils.


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