Parise breaks through for U.S.

Wednesday, 02.24.2010 / 10:06 PM ET / News
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Parise breaks through for U.S.
After going the first three games of the Olympics without a goal, Zach Parise scored twice on Wednesday as the U.S. earned a 2-0 win against Switzerland.
VANCOUVERZach Parise wasn't given a spot on the U.S. Olympic team just to do one job. But everybody understood that he most definitely had a Job One.

That, of course, was to score goals.

Through three games, the New Jersey Devils' winger had done everything but. Wednesday afternoon, Team USA needed him to do nothing but.

Wednesday afternoon, Parise did his job. Because he did, the United States is in the 2010 Olympic semifinals.

Applying paddles to an American hockey heart that was beginning to palpitate, Parise redirected a Brian Rafalski shot just around the stupendous Jonas Hiller and just over the goal line 2:08 into the third period to break a scoreless tie. He then refused to be stopped from getting the puck out of the U.S. zone and then into the empty Swiss net with 12 seconds left to lift the young Americans to a spine-tingling 2-0 victory over terrifying Switzerland at Canada Hockey Place in the first of four quarterfinal games.

"That's kind of why he does what he does in the National Hockey League," American forward and sage Chris Drury said. "Zach is one of the better player sin the world. Today, he was just flying."

"He's been great all tournament. But today, he just seemed to have a little extra jump in his step and it showed all over the ice. He did stick with it. And he scored two big goals."

From the first shift of Team USA's Olympic opener against these same Swiss eight days before, Parise had been a highly-visible and largely effective presence. He has hunted down loose pucks relentlessly, played with heart along the walls and in front of the net and willingly paid whatever physical price necessary to get himself and the puck to where they needed to go.

Everywhere, that is, except into the opposing net. Which is no small thing when you're the only American player who ever has scored more than 37 goals in an NHL season – his 45 last season ranked third in the League.

"I mean, I was kind of happy with the way I was playing," Parise said. "But I knew I could play better. And I wanted to contribute more offensively."

He had three assists coming into the game. And his willingness to stand in the war zone in the slot on power plays created the havoc that led to several U.S. goals. He also played Quasimodo a few times, clanging pucks off posts and crossbars – he rang one of each Wednesday as well.

He and Chicago Blackhawks winger Pat Kane, the Americans' only other player with 25 NHL goals this season, had trouble complementing one another on the top line. So U.S. coach Ron Wilson removed Kane from the right of Parise and Paul Stastny late in the second-game rout against Norway and assigned the grittier, more straightforward Jamie Langenbrunner. That worked beautifully.

Parise was a force against Canada in Sunday's Group A clincher – the victory that gave the Americans the top seed entering elimination play and the easier path to the gold medal game. And he picked right up against the Swiss where he had left off in Group play.

He tested Hiller twice in the first period, but the Anaheim Ducks goaltender was too good. And he beat Hiller only to have the puck roll along the crossbar on the first shift of the third.

But just when the tension was beginning to get unbearable, he reached out and got his stick on that Rafalski wrister, creating a trajectory the Olympic curlers would have admired. Then, entrusted by Wilson to be one of the three U.S. forwards on the ice for the game's last shift, Parise chipped a puck past Severin Blindenbacher, powered through the Swiss defenseman's attempt to squeeze him into the boards and flipped the clincher into the empty net.

"A great performance from Zach Parise today," Wilson said. "I thought he was our best player. And in games like this, your best players rise to the occasion and you saw that today."

Said Rafalski: "He's been playing great. He's been all over the ice. He's been forechecking. He's been getting through the neutral zone pretty good. He's creating problems with his speed and his strength.

"He hit a couple of posts and crossbars in the game. He could have had a couple more."
On this day, a couple was enough. And utterly necessary.

Author: John Dellapina | Staff Writer




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54


A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59