After posting two points and the game-winning goal in the Islanders’ 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, Zach Parise walked back his comments from last week claiming he told his teammates that he was more of a second-half player.
“It’s not as if I came into the room and said that I was a second-half player,” Parise joked. “I was just making light of the situation.”
The 37-year-old winger has been one of the more steady presences in an unstable Islanders season — earning the admiration of his head coach, Barry Trotz, who continued trotting him out on all situations including the power play despite collecting just one goal and five assists in his first 28 games of the season. Hardly the kind of start he wanted in his first year with the team his father played for back in the mid-1970s.
“You think of all the chances that weren’t going in early and nothing seemed to go in,” Trotz said. “You try so hard when you come to a new team, sometimes it backfires and it doesn’t go your way.”
It finally appears as things are tilting in the veteran’s favor.
Parise has six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in his last seven games, matching his offensive output from his extended nightmare to start the season that featured a 2% shooting percentage compared to the career average of 11.5% he posted in his previous 1,060 games he played over 16 years with the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild.
“I take a lot of pride in playing hard every night,” Parise said. “Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it’s a little harder for it to go in. Hopefully, we’re heating up here in the near future.”
Overturning a two-goal deficit to tie the game, Parise helped give the Islanders a 3-2 lead in the second period with a pinpoint primary assist on the power play from the side of the net on Mathew Barzal’s go-ahead goal.
“It feels great to contribute,” Parise admitted
After the Flyers equalized in the third, Parise roofed a one-timer with 8:09 left in regulation to put the Islanders ahead for good off a spinning feed from Anthony Beauvillier five seconds after another power play expired.
“We always knew that his game was going to come around,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “He just needed to get a couple bounces.”
“He’s playing his best hockey of the year so far,” Barzal added. “He’s getting rewarded.”
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The thing is, Parise’s game hasn’t necessarily changed. This is still the hard-nosed winger that will go in the corners, throw the body around, and needs no invitation to head toward the net.
“I don’t really see any difference in his game. I just think he’s just being himself,” Trotz said of Parise. ” There’s always an adjustment period. He’s getting rewarded just because of his play… When you’re playing night in night out like he does you want to see results. He wasn’t getting them but his play has been consistent right through.
“You know what you’re getting shift after shift from Zach. You’re getting max effort, a high battle mentality, net-front presence, and you’re getting real experienced game management skills that come with being a top player in the league for a long time. Those are great pro attributes. They haven’t changed since Day 1 since he got here. It’s nice to see how he’s getting rewarded.