-- Zach Parise
continued his scoring surge Friday night, proving again why he's so valuable to the New Jersey Devils
when he's both healthy and confident.
Parise had three assists, including a dazzling play on a shorthanded forecheck that led to Adam Henrique
's tying goal, and added a third-period goal of his own to lead the Devils to a 6-3 victory against the Dallas Stars
on the night New Jersey retired Scott Niedermayer's No. 27 at Prudential Center.
The Devils won their third game in a row and for the fifth time in the last six games. They also improved to 3-0 on jersey retirement nights, including wins on Scott Stevens' night (Feb. 3, 2006; 3-0 over Carolina) and Ken Daneyko's night (March 25, 2006; 4-2 over Boston).
"He was great," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said of Parise, who had his first four-point game since Jan. 29, 2010 against Toronto. "Zach has been taking his game to another level lately and we need it."
Dallas rookie goalie Richard Bachman
, who was starting his fourth straight game and second in as many nights, gave up six goals against 31 shots for the first loss of his NHL career. It was the Stars' first loss in four games, and even though they finished their five-game road trip with a 3-2-0 mark, coach Glen Gulutzan said Friday's game can't just get tossed away because it was the second half of a back-to-back and the Stars' third in four nights.
"We want to live daily, and we think certainly tonight has some learning lessons in it," Gulutzan said. "We're going to play two-in-twos. We've got a ton coming up in February, and our record is now 0-6 (in the second half of back-to-back games). We've got to learn when you don't have your legs you've got to play a certain way, so we'll focus on tonight."
Focus hasn't been an issue for Parise of late. He finished the night tied with Patrik Elias
for the team lead with 27 points. Both have 11 goals and 16 assists, but Parise has five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in his past 10 games.
"That's how it should be," Ilya Kovalchuk
said of Parise. "He's too good of a player to not get the points in every game."
Parise produced only 11 points through the first 21 games of the season, but he said Friday morning that he's finally feeling comfortable in everything he's doing after a long recovery from a knee injury he suffered 13 1/2 months ago. He added that it helps that he's back to playing left wing after experimenting at center, and that his line, including Henrique and Kovalchuk, is playing well, too.
The three of them combined for seven points Friday to give the Devils' top line 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) in New Jersey's last 10 games.
"I think his timing is coming back," DeBoer said. "He's getting to the right places as the puck is getting there, which is what he's good at. Two weeks ago he was there a second early or a second late. I can't explain it, but I know speaking to him he feels like he's back to where he should be and it couldn't come as a better time for us."
Parise was far too good for the Stars' liking in the second period, when he turned himself into a one-man penalty kill to help Henrique score the game-tying shorthanded goal with Cam Janssen
in the penalty box serving an interference minor.
Parise's aggressive forecheck stalled the Stars' breakout, and then he stole the puck away from Stephane Robidas
at the blue line. He broke in for a 2-on-1 with Henrique, who Parise said was calling for the puck.
"We were able to get a 2-on-1. I heard Adam calling for it," Parise said. "I saw him open."
Parise delivered a saucer pass over Robidas' stick, and Henrique buried the one-timer 3:35 into the second period.
"It was amazing," DeBoer said. "Guys are remembered for certain goals -- [Scott] Niedermayer for the goal against Detroit in the playoffs, going end-to-end. I think that's vintage Niedermayer. I think that's vintage Parise that goal (Friday night)."
Gulutzan had to look at the play from the opposite point of view, and he saw a turnover by Robidas at the blue line that led to a momentum-swinging goal.
"I wouldn't call that a backbreaker, but it stings your power play and puts you on your heals," Gulutzan said. "Whenever you get a shortie, it gives the team a lot of life. It was hard work on their part. Those things can get you."
Later in the second period, Parise and Kovalchuk hooked up for the go-ahead goal, with Parise leaving a drop pass for Kovalchuk and the Russian right wing sniping it from the left circle past off of Bachman's glove side to make it 3-2 Devils.
scored the eventual game-winner off a rebound of Janssen's shot with just 1:27 left before the second intermission to give New Jersey a 4-2 advantage. The assist was Janssen's first point of the season.
Parise then cashed in for his 11th goal of the season 9:19 into the third period. After Dallas forward Toby Peterson and Elias traded goals in a span of 20 seconds, the Devils closed out Parise's strong game and an emotional and memorable night for the entire organization with the fans chanting for Niedermayer in the closing seconds.
Moments later, they gave Parise an ovation when he was announced as the first star.
"When you get a full house like that you want to put on a good show," Parise said. "I thought we did that."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl