Parise scored twice, including once on the power play, to snap his 12-game goal drought and lead the Devils to a 3-2 win over the visiting Atlanta Thrashers on Monday.
His third multi-goal outing of the season was one of several strong individual efforts by the Devils, who also got two assists from Niclas Bergfors and 24 saves from Martin Brodeur for their fourth straight victory on home ice.
New Jersey allowed an Ilya Kovalchuk tally in the first period, but came back to score the next three. Colin White's second of the season broke a 1-1 tie late in the opening frame, and the Devils never relinquished the lead.
Atlanta's Marty Reasoner made it 3-2 with 12:32 left in regulation and the Thrashers pulled netminder Johan Hedberg with 1:16 to go. But the Devils (27-9-1) held on for their 10th win in 12 games and recovered first place in the conference courtesy of Washington's 6-3 loss to Carolina.
Parise lighting the lamp for the first time since Nov. 28 was the difference.
"It definitely feels good," Parise said. "It feels good for something to finally go in and finally remember what it's like to score a goal again. It's definitely a good feeling."
The Devils' leading scorer with 42 points, Parise is second in the NHL with 169 shots. He chipped in with 10 assists since his last tally, leaving no doubt he can contribute even without scoring goals.
"It's a funny game like that, where you go through spurts where it just seems like anything you touch goes in," he said. "Sometimes it's the opposite, so it was important to just keep a positive attitude when it wasn't going in."
The Devils bounced back from Saturday's 4-1 defeat in Washington with a strong showing versus Atlanta, which has dropped four straight on the road.
"It was a good rebound game for us," Parise said. "I thought we played a lot better and did things a lot better than we did in Washington."
David Clarkson returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a broken leg and dropped the gloves with Chris Thorburn in the first period. He finished with two shots and two hits in 11:39 of ice time.
"Felt good," Clarkson said. "Just have to keep going. I felt like my legs were there; felt like I was skating well. You just want to try and get back to where you were last."
The fight was, in part, a product of his excitement to be back in the lineup.
"I've been sitting at home for five weeks," he said. "We were in a tie game, they (had gotten) a couple of good shots. I just figured I'd try and grab somebody and he was the closest guy."
Clarkson began the night on a line with Andrew Peters and Rod Pelley. Peters, however, was hit with a game misconduct 1:57 into the contest for not having his jersey tied down in a scrap with Eric Boulton.
With Peters gone for the rest of the night, head coach Jacques Lemaire had to scramble his lines.
"We ended up playing three lines there at the end in the third period," Lemaire said. "For sure, I don't know how it would have turned out if he stayed in, but anyway – it's done."
Kovalchuk's 23rd of the season opened the scoring in the first. Reasoner's cross-ice feed slipped between Clarkson and Dean McAmmond and reached Kovalchuk, who blasted a one-timer from the top of the left circle at 9:43.
Parise brought the packed Prudential Center to its feet 1:03 later with his 16th of the year. Bergfors took a punshing hit from Christoph Schubert along the boards near the Atlanta blue line, but got back up to find Parise in the slot.
Parise redirected Bergfors' pass on Hedberg, then buried his own rebound at 10:46 for his first goal in 13 games. Hedberg finished with 23 saves.
"Bergy made a good play," Parise said. "He got hit pretty good on the boards and ended up getting a turnover and finding me in front."
Bergfors never saw Schubert coming.
"Sometimes you get hit," Bergfors said. "The puck came back to me, and I saw (Parise) was open."
He was fine afterward, despite how bad the hit looked.
"My head was (spinning) a little after that," he said.
White snapped the 1-1 tie with 3:26 left in the first. Bergfors worked the puck along the left boards to Travis Zajac, who dished to White at the left point. White notched his second of the season, and first goal in 19 games, with a blast underneath Hedberg at 16:34.
Following the scoreless middle frame, Parise's second of the night put the Devils ahead by a pair 59 seconds into the third. Boris Valabik was called for holding the stick with 13 seconds left in the second, and Parise cashed in on the carryover time. He drove to the bottom of the right circle, where he buried a cross-ice feed from Patrik Elias for his 17th of the year.
Elias was happy to help Parise dent the twine.
"When we played together the last three games, I told him, 'Be ready and I'll try to look for you," Elias said. "But he always gets his opportunities."
Reasoner cut the Devils lead to 3-2 in the third. He collected a Pavel Kubina pass at the New Jersey blueline and fired a shot from the top of the left circle that snuck under Brodeur's catching glove arm at 7:28.
Brodeur needed 24 saves for his League-leading 24th win.
NJD NOTES Parise might've had his first hat trick of the season, but said he wasn't sure if White's goal went off his stick in the slot before finding the back of the net.
"I didn't know," Parise said. "It was one of those things where I couldn't really tell, but they review everything, so I guess not."
• Lemaire said his team had to battle a tough opponent all night long.
"It was a hard-fought game," he said. "Both teams played hard. There was a lot of hitting and not a lot of room to play. You had to make your own room. (Atlanta) is a team that plays tight, they play man-on-man. To get away from this, you have to be able to skate; beat people. Otherwise, there's always someone on you if you're not skating."
The coach credited Zajac's play for getting Parise on track. The centerman had an assist and two shots in 19:02 of ice time.
"Travis helped him and Patrik Elias made a great pass to him," Lemaire said. "Zach is skating, always skating. But when he's in the open, when he's ready to get that puck, somebody has to give it to him. Tonight, we had people to give it to him."
Lemaire tried to keep Parise thinking positive during the slump.
"He doesn't get rattled a lot with this," he said. "Maybe he did just a bit there. But I told him about his work ethic that he has to keep, and try to forget that he (wasn't) scoring. It's going to come."
Lemaire thought Clarkson skated well, and said he was pleased with the right wing's first game since Nov. 27. He was ambivalent about Clarkson's fight, though.
"I don't especially want him to fight," Lemaire said. "But if a fight happens, you know how Clarkie is: if he's got an invitation for a party, he'll go."
• Bryce Salvador did not have a shift after the 7:56 mark of the second period due to a lower body injury.
• Peters has played in two of the Devils' last four contests after being a healthy scratch in eight straight.
• Hockey legend Gordie Howe attended the game and received a warm round of applause when he was shown on the scoreboard in the third period.
"I didn't know he was here," Parise said. "Nobody knew until they showed him on the scoreboard. That was pretty cool."