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Though Zach Parise scored just once in his first 32 games as an Islander, it was clear to anyone watching he was getting more comfortable in the system. His forechecking, penalty-killing and chance creation were contributing. The goals would come.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little frustrated that the puck hasn’t gone in as much as I would like it to,” Parise said last week. “But the chances are there.”
During that same press conference, Parise joked that he was “a second-half player.” The Islanders haven’t yet played 41 games, but those words feel pretty true.
After getting on the board with a goal against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, Parise scored the winner in a 4-3 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday, finishing off a breakaway feed from Anthony Beauvillier at 11:51 of the third period. He now has six points in his past seven games.
Reminded of that quote following the game Tuesday, Parise failed to hide a laugh.
“I mean, it’s not as if I came into the room and told everyone I’m a second-half player,” he said. “I was just trying to make light of the situation. But I take a lot of pride in playing hard every night. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it’s a little harder for it to go in. But hopefully we’ll be heating up here in the near future.”
Right now, it’s going in for Parise. And that is making all the difference.
“I think he’s playing his best hockey of the year so far,” Mathew Barzal said. “And he’s getting rewarded.”
The Islanders knew Parise would soon start finding the net, Anders Lee said. They’ve all had similar stretches, where everything seems to be going right except the puck not going in the net. Sometimes, it’s only a matter of time.
“I don’t really see any difference in his game,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think he’s being himself. … You think about all the chances he had early and nothing seemed to go in.”
Parise, Trotz said, gives the Islanders the same attributes every night. The only thing that has changed is the puck now is finding the net.
“You’re getting max effort, you’re getting a high battle mentality,” Trotz said. “You’re getting net-front presence and you’re getting real experience, game-management skills that come in being in the league and being a top player in the league for a long time. Those are great pro attributes. They haven’t changed since Day 1 since he’s got here.
“It’s nice to see him being rewarded.”
Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle set the NHL’s ironman record by playing in his 965th straight game, passing Doug Jarvis on the all-time list. The Islanders honored Yandle, a former Ranger, with a video tribute during the first period.
Jarvis, who never missed an NHL game from Oct. 8, 1975, to Oct. 10, 1987 while with Montreal, Washington and Hartford, held the record of 964, which Yandle tied Monday against the Stars.
“It’s unbelievable,” the Islanders’ Andy Greene said before the game. “To stay healthy, it takes a lot of luck, especially these last couple years, right? These last two years with COVID, to be able to play that many games, for that long, it’s remarkable. It’s unbelievable and good for him.”
After benching Oliver Wahlstrom on Saturday, Trotz said he was happy with the 21-year-old’s play against the Flyers.
“He’s better when he keeps it simple and then his skill comes out from loose pucks, from plays through the offensive zone,” Trotz said. “He can do those things.”
Kyle Palmieri was on the ice at the morning skate Tuesday, but remains on injured reserve.