Zach Parise took the ice late Monday night for what could have been his last game with the Minnesota Wild, scored a goal that will buy him at least one more appearance at the Xcel Energy Center, then celebrated with a scream.
“Yeah, there was a lot of emotion behind that one,” Parise said. “I was pretty happy to see that one go in and give us a lead at the time. So … it just felt good at the time.”
Parise’s first-period grit goal helped the Wild to a 4-2 victory in Las Vegas on Monday night, meaning Vegas will bring a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 on Wednesday.
His play might have been the difference on Monday.
So why wasn’t he in the lineup all series?
Parise will turn 37 this summer. He has four years left on his contract. The Wild probably should have traded him over the last two seasons but didn’t. Instead, the team benched him at the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs.
His age, contract and usage make him a big problem for the Wild, but that problem can be addressed in the offseason.
He didn’t help the Wild win in Game 4, but provided energy.
In the first period of Game 5, he scored a vintage Parise goal, going to the front of the net, then taking a puck off the boards and flicking it in off Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from behind the net.
One such goal — a deflection, a tip, a hustle play — could have won Game 2 for the Wild, could have made this an entirely different series.
Instead, the Wild chose the wrong time to make whatever point they were making by benching Parise.
Whatever personality quirks have kept the current Wild brain trust from looking upon Parise with affection, Parise’s work ethic and in-game grit have never been in question.
As with a vintage Mercedes, you don’t get rid of the vehicle because of age, but because of mileage and maintenance costs.
Parise should probably be playing on the power play in this series. That’s where his netfront presence and puck-deflection skills could come in handy for a team that entered Game 5 in a power-play drought.
But the same grit that should make him somewhat valuable in the twilight of his career is what has led to more frequent injuries and a lack of production. He’s 5-11, 193 pounds, and he’s taken a thousand crosschecks to the middle of his back. His ribs couldn’t be more tender if they were marinated.
Reviewing the best American sports moments of 2021, the right question might be: Is advanced age a problem?
Over the weekend Phil Mickelson became the oldest major golf champion by winning the PGA Championship at 50. He didn’t win strictly because of experience. He hit a 366-yard drive coming down the stretch on Sunday, and claimed that hard work and a good nutritional plan enabled him to remain limber and powerful at an age when most pros are happy to get an invitation to the senior tour, where the fairways are wide, the holes are short and the tournaments last just three days.
Earlier this year, Tom Brady won a Super Bowl at 43, and, like his former golf partner Mickelson, did not look like someone edging toward retirement while winning his latest title.
Nolan Ryan pitched until he was 46, and with power. Nelson Cruz was the best hitter on a division champion last year at the age of 39.
A number of NHL players have excelled or at least contributed at the age of 40, including Gordie Howe, Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom.
Parise has four years remaining on his contract at $7.5 million per season. That’s not a lot to pay a star. That is a lot to pay a third-line winger who can’t stay healthy.
But the salary that makes the Wild want to trade him will likely keep other teams from coveting him.
Thanks to his latest gritty goal, Parise won’t have to ponder his long-term future for at least a few more days.
The columnist did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.