Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times (m5dna1pd20120609182628/600 )
NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Coach Peter DeBoer spent part of Saturday morning defending Devils captain Zach Parise.
Sure, the Kings had held him scoreless through four games in the Stanley Cup Final. But DeBoer explained that "Zach's game is so much more than the stat line. He's the heartbeat of our team. He's the identity of our team. He forechecks, he back-checks, he kills penalties."
And on Saturday, he scored.
Parise backed up DeBoer's verbal defense in effort and action. His first-period energy helped blunt a fast start by the Kings and also produced a goal for a 1-0 lead. That set in motion a 2-1 Devils victory at the Prudential Center in Game 5 that sent the series back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Monday.
Parise is a blue-collar worker, a New Jersey staple. DeBoer's comment — "I don't measure his game on goals and assists" — could almost be a Bruce Springsteen song.
His presence is certainly vital to the Devils.
Parise missed much of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury, and the Devils missed the playoffs.
He scored 31 goals this season and has eight more in the playoffs.
This was his first in the Stanley Cup Final.
"You always want to contribute," Parise said. "But as I have said, I felt our line has been playing fine. We've had a lot of chances. The puck just wasn't going in.
"But to contribute and get that first goal feels good."
Parise's drought had media poking and prodding the past week, trying to pin him and DeBoer down about what was wrong. For that, DeBoer, was appreciative.
"I think you guys made him mad," DeBoer said. "Keep doing it."
Basically, DeBoer said, "I go into every game expecting Zach to do something big."
Parise did Saturday.
The Kings burst from the locker room, seemingly intent on ending the series in the first few minutes. It put the Devils on their heels — except for Parise.
He nearly had a break-away early on but wasn't able to catch up to the puck before Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick got to it. Parise sprinted up the ice again, getting to the puck behind the Kings' net, only to have Quick stop his jam try.
Parise's effort wasn't wasted later in the period, with the Devils on the power play.
Quick made a poor clearing attempt behind the net. Parise beat defenseman Drew Doughty to the net, dug the puck out and poked a shot past Quick, who was scrambling to get back in position.
"I saw Quick go out of the net and just went on my normal forecheck route that I've done 1,000 times this year," Parise said. "He just made a bad play and put the puck on my stick. Got lucky."
The type of luck the Devils needed. Parise goal gave them a 1-0 lead 12 minutes 45 seconds into the game.
"He really is our barometer," DeBoer said. "He's the guy that makes us go, whether he's scoring or not."
On Saturday, he was scoring.