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Greene's goal in OT lifts Devils in Parise's return

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- So that's one Game 7 in the books and a dozen more to go.

At least that's how New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr views the big picture following a 4-3 overtime victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at Prudential Center.

Defenseman Andy Greene made it possible when he skated low into the left circle to slam home a loose puck inside the left post with three minutes remaining to help the Devils (30-27-13, 73 points) snap a three-game losing streak with 12 regular-season games remaining.

"Game 7 is always important," Jagr said with a grin. "We've got 12 Game 7s left and we have to win all of them to get into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. The first one [against Minnesota] is behind us, and we have 12 to go."

The game marked the return of Wild left wing Zach Parise, who was playing against his former team in New Jersey for the first time since signing with Minnesota in July 2012. He scored a second-period goal that made the score 2-1, Devils.

"It was fun to be back but unfortunately the outcome wasn't what we were planning on," Parise said. "We were able to claw back into the game and get a point. That could be a big one later in the year.

"In a way, I'm kind of glad it's over."

Greene's goal gave Devils coach Peter DeBoer his 200th NHL win.

"I was just looking to support the rush and actually kicked it out of the corner to start it," Greene said. "I thought about changing but saw we had a 3-on-2 developing and supported it. The puck squirted through there, back door, and luckily I got some rubber on it and put it home."

The Devils, who are five points behind the New York Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot, host the Rangers on Saturday, Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, and Phoenix Coyotes on March 27.

"It's a four-point game on Saturday, the biggest one of the year," Devils center Travis Zajac said.

Michael Ryder, Mark Fayne and Jagr scored, and Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias had three assists each for the Devils. Cory Schneider made 20 saves in his first victory since Feb. 27, which was a 17-save, 5-2 decision against the Blue Jackets. Schneider, who has allowed 18 goals in his past four starts, snapped a personal three-game losing streak.

It didn't come easily for the Devils, who allowed the Wild to score two goals in a span of 4:42 in the third period to pull into a 3-3 tie.

Mikael Granlund scored his eighth of the season off a harmless looking wrist shot from along the goal line below the left circle to put the Wild within 3-2. The puck snuck through Schneider's pads and trickled over the goal line at 10:36.

"He whipped it through a few pairs of legs and I didn't see it coming," Schneider said. "It's just what has been happening lately for me. I need to be tighter on that one, but the puck is finding that one inch of space, so I have to do something about that."

Matt Cooke tied the game from the slot when he tipped a Marco Scandella right-point shot that beat Schneider to the long side at 15:28.

"It wasn't a good feeling [when Minnesota tied], but we knew we were still alive," Jagr said. "It wasn't a big deal and a lot easier since they weren't a team in our conference. We settled down."

The Wild (36-23-11, 83 points), who hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, are 1-2-1 in their past four games. They return home to play Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was making his second straight start following a 6-0 victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, made 24 saves.

Parise scored a power-play goal 21 seconds into the third period. Ryan Suter took a shot from the left point, and Parise skated in front of defenseman Bryce Salvador and deflected the shot over Schneider's glove for his 24th of the season.

The Devils regained their two-goal lead 3:13 later when Jagr collected a backhand pass from Ryane Clowe for a one-timer in the left circle. The goal was Jagr's 23rd of the season, 704th of his NHL career.

Parise, who spent seven seasons with the Devils, admitted earlier in the day he wasn't anticipating a standing ovation in his return. As it turned out, he would have been hard pressed to get a hardy pat on the back. Devils fans booed their former captain from start to finish, including during the lineup announcement prior to puck drop.

"I was expecting [boos]," Parise said. "I saw a couple of signs that were nice. I was expecting the boos. But once you start playing you drown them out, you don't hear them."

Parise was cheered when he was sent to the penalty box for hooking at 12:27 of the first period. He finished with six shots, one goal, a plus-1 rating, one blocked shot and one minor penalty.

The Devils opened a 2-0 lead in the second period when defenseman Fayne scored a shorthanded goal, his first goal in nine games, off a rising wrist shot from the right circle that beat Bryzgalov on the long side at 9:35. The play was set up by Henrique, who skated into the left circle before making a no-look backhand pass to Fayne at the right point.

The Devils opened ready to play physical and fast against the Wild, something that was missing in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Ryder scored his first goal in 24 games when he collected a pass from Elias and ripped a slap shot from the high slot that beat Bryzgalov inside the left post with 3:02 left in the first.

Wild defenseman Nate Prosser was given a five-minute major and game misconduct 1:01 later for elbowing Devils forward Tim Sestito behind Bryzgalov. Parise would get his first big chance of the game shorthanded moments later when he stole the puck and broke in 1-on-1 against Schneider, who made the save at 18:21.

Sestito did not return to the game, leaving DeBoer with 10 forwards. DeBoer said after the game Sestito was coherent and feeling all right but was unable to play.

"We had seven defensemen, and with Sestito going down had a short bench, but I thought the guys dug deep up front and did a good job," said DeBoer, who is 200-181-65 with the Devils and Florida Panthers.

The loss of Prosser left Wild coach Mike Yeo with five defensemen.

"It was tough for our D," Yeo said. "In this kind of game, they're going to try to get everything in and get in on the forecheck. We weren't executing well enough to ease any of the pressure on our defense, so it was a hard game for them. As always, they did a good job. That's a credit to those guys."

Editor's note: Zach Parise's goal has been changed to Ryan Suter.


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