NEWARK, N.J. -- That goal-scoring slump that plagued Zach Parise the last dozen games was snapped in authoritative fashion on Monday when he struck for a pair of goals to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers before 17,024 at Prudential Center.
The victory was the Devils' 10th in the last 12 games overall and seventh in their last eight on home ice.
Parise snapped his 0-for-December slump with his team-leading 16th of the season at the 10:46 mark of the first period to pull the Devils into a 1-1 tie. He'd later score the eventual game-winner 59 seconds into the third with his third power-play goal of the season to give the home team a 3-1 cushion.
"I take a lot a lot of pride in the way I play and score goals and of course it starts to bother you after a while," Parise said. "I felt like I was playing well the whole time (during his slump) -- that wasn't the issue. I thought I was contributing but pucks weren't going in. Tonight, I get two opportunities, (even though) I've had better opportunities throughout, but they went in. Hopefully, they keep going in."
Martin Brodeur, who entered the game having allowed seven goals in his last four periods against the Thrashers, finished with 24 saves to notch his League-leading 24th victory of the season. Brodeur was particularly sharp in the second when he turned aside all nine shots thrown in his direction. He also took a shot off the facemask in the final minute of the game when the Thrashers had pulled their goalie for an extra attacker.
"We're happy to win again and bounce back from a tough loss in Washington (on Saturday)," Brodeur said. "We had a solid game, but they played well too. There weren't many penalties in the game so it was one you just have to grind out."
Parise scored for the first time in 13 games -- his longest drought since his rookie season of 2005-06 when he went 14 games without a goal. It was his first two-goal game since Nov. 19 -- a 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators.
"To me, the biggest difference (for Parise) was the fact Travis (Zajac) played really well," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Travis really helped him and Patrik Elias made a great pass to him (on his second goal in the third). Zach is always skating; it's just a matter that someone has to give it to him and tonight he got the puck.
"It's good for any players' mind to score a goal," Lemaire continued. "The thing is, he doesn't get rattled -- maybe just a little bit. I told him about his work ethic. That he has to keep going and try to forget that he's not scoring. In this League today, you can't do it on your own. You need five guys playing with you to give you passes, give you the puck at the right time."
Lemaire, who was always complimentary of Parise's play even during his goal-scoring slump, actually double-shifted his star forward in the first -- he saw 10 shifts totaling just under seven minutes of action and generated two shots. For the game, he finished with 6 shots in 20:24 of ice time.
Parise's second goal -- which gave the Devils a 3-1 lead -- came off a splendid cross-ice feed from Elias.
"When you're a player expected to score all the time, and you don't for a while, you might put pressure on yourself to contribute," Brodeur said. "Zach did that in different ways with a lot of assists (10), but I think for him and his psyche, it was good to get some goals."
"I take a lot a lot of pride in the way I play and score goals and of course it starts to bother you after a while. I felt like I was playing well the whole time (during his slump) -- that wasn't the issue. I thought I was contributing but pucks weren't going in. Tonight, I get two opportunities, (even though) I've had better opportunities throughout, but they went in. Hopefully, they keep going in." -- Zach Parise
Atlanta, which has lost five straight and six of their last seven, pulled within 3-2 at 7:28 of the third when Marty Reasoner's snap shot from the top of the left circle deflected of Brodeur's left hip into the cage. Brodeur, who said the puck changed direction on him at the last second, was making his 16th consecutive start and his 23rd straight appearance between the pipes.
"Nobody will help us out of this but ourselves because no one really cares what happens to us," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "If we're down, they're going to continue to come at us. We never quit, I'll give them that much. But in order to get out of this, we need to dig down to find out what's in our hearts."
Hedberg, who was pretty efficient throughout on 23 saves, stoned Devils forward Brian Rolston on a breakaway attempt with 7:55 left in the third to keep his team within striking distance. The Thrashers would pull Hedberg with 1:16 left in the game, but Brodeur and his defensive mates held serve.
"We're beyond building momentum at this stage -- we're halfway through the season," Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "You obviously don't want to give up a goal in the first minute of a period to go down two on the road. It's not impossible, but not looking good to go down by two to these guys with Brodeur back there."
Rookie Niclas Bergfors notched two assists for the Devils. His first led to Parise's first goal of the game to tie the contest, 1-1. After being knocked off his skates along the right-wing boards by Atlanta's Christoph Schubert, Bergfors regained his edge, intercepted a pass and fed Parise motoring down the slot. Parise' first attempt was stopped but he controlled the rebound and backhanded a shot past Hedberg while falling to the ice.
Colin White then gave the Devils a 2-1 lead when his 70-foot slap shot from the left point found the five-hole past a screened Hedberg at 16:34 of the first. The play was started by a hustling Bergfors, who fought off Pavel Kubina along the wall before dishing Zajac along the half-boards. Zajac feathered a pass to White to turned and fired.
The Thrashers opened a 1-0 lead 9:43 into the first when Ilya Kovalchuk connected on his team-leading 23rd of the season off a wicked one-timer from high in the left circle that soared past Brodeur. The goal extended Kovalchuk's point-scoring streak to 10 games (7 goals, 8 assists).