Zach Parise breaks out, giving an early parting gift to the Devils

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Mike Gibb

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It was fitting that Zach Parise scored the empty-net goal to seal last night's win for his New Jersey Devils in their Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers.

Parise, the team captain, hadn't scored in five games, but broke out of his slump last night, scoring twice and assisting on another to help the Devils to a 4-1 win that evened the series at two games each. 

With 93 seconds left in the game and the Rangers down 3-1 and pressing for a miracle comeback, the puck was cleared to Parise, who turned and lunged with the puck, trying to clear the offensive zone. The puck made it out of the zone, turned on its side and rolled slowly down the ice, untouched and into the Rangers empty net. 

Following Game Three of the series on Saturday, Parise refused to speak to the media, possibly to avoid questions about an article in which father was quoted saying that his soon-to-be-free-agent son would be a good fit with the Rangers, given his past relationship with Rangers coach John Tortorella.

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Parise, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has been linked to a number of teams during the course of the season including the Rangers, who will have cap space, a young team, and their strong performance this year to help make their pitch.

The trio of Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson accounted for 43 percent of the Devils' goals during the regular season, but had combined to score only two during the first three games of the series, including two shut-out wins by the Rangers. Parise's performance last night was exactly what the Devils needed. And exactly what he needed as he heads into free agency.