After win, Zach Parise says it's not much fun to face your former team
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - In his nine-season NHL career, Zach Parise has played 502 games for the New Jersey Devils. And he's undefeated in one game against them.
Although it's a stretch to compare this to that 2009 afternoon at the Metrodome when Brett Favre led the Vikings to a win over the Packers, Parise admitted there were some strange sensations on the ice of the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday, in the Minnesota Wild's 4-0 win.
"As a player you always hate practicing and scrimmaging against your own team. That's what it felt like for me tonight the whole game," said Parise, who chipped in with one assist as the Wild won for the fifth time in their past six games. "They don't give you much offensively. They play well systematically. There's not a lot of room out there. Fortunately we were pretty opportunistic. When we did have the chances, we put them in."
In truth, Parise's assist came via a combination of the Wild's past and the Wild's future.
With the Wild leading 1-0 in the second period, Parise fired a close-range shot that banked off the right arm of Devils' goalie Cory Schneider and into the air. The puck appeared to hit Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky - who played more than 200 games for the Wild before being traded to New Jersey two seasons ago. Zidlicky was crashing the net with Wild forward Torrey Mitchell, and as a result, the puck landed in the net. Mitchell was credited with the goal, his first of the season.
At the other end of the rink, nothing landed in the net, despite long stretches early in the game where the Devils controlled the play. Josh Harding, who has clearly taken over the number one goalie spot for the Wild, improved to 6-0-0 at home, stopping all 19 New Jersey shots for his second shutout of the season.
"The guys are making it easy. It's never about one player," said Harding, who is leading the NHL statistically. "We win as a team and we lose as a team like we always say. This was another team win. Everybody contributed and pulled their weight. More than anything, it's good to show Zach everybody pull a good effort and what he's all done for this club. That was a big win for us and for him."
How big was it for the Wild? Start with the fact that Mikael Granlund - he of the team lead in assists but no goals in October - scored the first goal of the game. Then add Mitchell's first goal of the season. Then add Dany Heatley's second goal - a pretty tip of a Keith Ballard shot on a third period power play. For good measure, Jason Pominville scored into an empty net late in the game - merely the sixth goal by Pominville in the Wild's last four games.
"Our leadership was very good tonight," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, who was so preoccupied by the many other on-ice comings and goings that he failed to acknowledge his goalie's shutout. "It seemed like we kind of felt our way into the game and they were dictating the play early. I think what really got us going was our penalty kill, we went out and we killed that first penalty, but our leaders and what they were saying on the bench, and more importantly how they went out and performed after that really started to turn things around after us."
There will be more strangeness for Parise in March, when the Wild make their only trip to Newark this season and he has to face the Devils in his old place of business. For now, even with the familiar sweaters on the visitors' bench, it was just another win.