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Updated: April 29th, 2014 12:34am
Zulgad: Parise's willingness to do dirty work helps Wild extend season

Zulgad: Parise's willingness to do dirty work helps Wild extend season

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

ST. PAUL -- Zach Parise might be paid like a superstar, but he sure didn't act like one on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Because of this, the Minnesota Wild was able to force a seventh and deciding game against the Colorado Avalanche in their first-round series. That game will be played on Wednesday night in Colorado, a place where the Wild is 0-3 so far in this series.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that first paragraph is an insult of any sort of one of the Wild's $98 million, 13-year men. If anything, it's praise of the fact that a day after Mike Yeo asked his players to create more traffic and screens in front of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov that one of coach's top-line wingers did exactly that.

This isn't what one would consider an attractive assignment, but Parise's persistence in going to an area of the net that results in abuse from defensemen, and is considered dirty work by many, led to two goals and one assist.

He finished the night with two assists, including one on the first of two empty-net goals in the third period that helped create a very deceiving final score.

"I think Varlamov has been seeing the puck, and I don't think we've made it tough enough on him," Parise said. "The majority of the time any goalie in this league sees the puck they're going to stop it, that's just the way it is. I think we all need to get in front, get some more traffic, get some rebounds, get some screens. Prevent him from seeing it a little bit, and I think that's how we got a couple of them."

The first goal came only 49 seconds into the game.

The Wild went on a power play 26 seconds in when Colorado's Nathan McKinnon was called for holding.

Defenseman Ryan Suter then skated in, picked up a loose puck in the circle to the left of Varlamov and let go with a shot that went in off Parise's leg.

Parise again got in Varlamov's field of vision later in the period as Mikael Granlund let go with a snap shot after taking a pass from Jason Pominville. That made it 2-0 Wild.

But Parise's biggest moment came with the score tied 2-2 and 6:29 left in the third period. Mikko Koivu, who had been reunited on a line with Parise, let go with a shot from the left point after Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda failed to clear the zone.

Parise went to the front of the net, took a beating from Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, as well as Varlamov, and did not move. Parise then tipped Koivu's shot past the goalie for the winning goal.

The three goals given up by Varlamov equaled the total he gave up in Games 3 and 4 combined at the X. He made 75 saves in those two games, before stopping 18 of 21 shots on Monday.

Pominville made it clear that putting the focus on Parise's goals was shortchanging the overall contributions he makes. "He played well overall," said Pominville, who had a goal and an assist. "It's not only about him scoring goals, it's about him blocking a shot when he needed to and just his play overall was really solid."

Parise, who was the captain on the New Jersey Devils team that made a run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, has three goals and seven assists in this series to lead the Wild in points.

It's the type of production that's expected from him and the type of production he did not manage to provide last season when the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Wild in five games. Parise had only a goal in that series.

"I don't know," where the drive comes from, Parise said when asked about his performance on Monday. "You just want to win and you have to have a group of people that understands what you have to do. We got contributions from everybody but it just felt good tonight.

"It felt like I had a little extra jump and just felt like I was making some good plays when I had the puck on my stick. It's one of those nights where you want to keep touching it and keep having the puck. I got a couple fortunate bounces. The one off my leg on the first goal and then a tip on the second one."

There was nothing fortunate about either. Both goals were the result of hard work and helped the Wild extend their season at least another game. But getting a win in the opening round wasn't the primary goal Parise had in mind when he returned home to Minnesota and signed with the Wild.

"These games (like the one Monday) are fun when you win and you contribute, but I think when we signed here we didn't sign here to win a first-round game," Parise said. "We look at the big picture that tonight we were able to force a Game 7. That's what we wanted to do. ... We've got to get a win in Denver."

As for the pressure that will be on the Wild, Parise sounded as if he's looking forward to it.

"Game 7s are awesome," he said. "Just the importance of every play. The atmosphere in the building. It's a lot of fun. I think it will be exciting for us to be a part of one and hopefully we can come out on top, get a win there this time." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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