On the night the Devils raised Scott Niedermayer's number to the rafters, a four-point night by Zach Parise brought the house down.
Parise notched a goal and three assists for his seventh career four-point game, leading the Devils to a 6-3 rout of the visiting Dallas Stars on Friday. Niedermayer's No. 27 was officially retired in an emotional pregame ceremony that was emceed by former Devils' television play-by-play man Mike "Doc" Emrick.
"Four-point nights are always nice," Parise said. "It always feels good. You're able to contribute and you're able to help the team win. It's always a good feeling."
It was even better given the circumstances.
"It's a special night when you can retire a player's number," he said. "There's energy in the building, the crowd gets into it, they're there early, they're getting antsy, and it's fun."
The Devils trailed 1-0 and 2-1, but stormed back to take a 4-2 lead on three straight goals in the second period and never looked back.
Parise had a hand in the Devils' first three tallies, including Adam Henrique's shorthanded strike. David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk each notched their 10th of the season, giving New Jersey four players with goal totals in the double digits.
Parise and Patrik Elias each added their team-leading 11th goals in the final frame as the Devils won their third in a row.
It was Niedermayer's night, but when the puck dropped, Parise stole the show.
"He was great," said coach Peter DeBoer. "Zach has been taking his game to another level lately, and we need it."
Parise, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, has come alive with three goals and five assists in his last three games. He's tied with Elias for the team lead in assists (16) and points (27).
"His work ethic is never in question," DeBoer said. "I think his timing is coming back. He's getting to the right places as the puck's getting there, which is what he's good at, where two weeks ago, he was there a second early or a second late. I can't explain it, but I know speaking to him, he feels he's back to where he should be and it couldn't come at a better time for us."
The trio of Parise, Henrique and Kovalchuk combined for three goals and four assists.
"For us as a line, we're having fun," Parise said. "We're making plays, we're making it tough on the opposing defensemen."
The Devils welcomed back Travis Zajac, who centered Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby. But besides seeing a key player return to the lineup, DeBoer had an easy time identifying the next best part of the game.
"The fact that we scored some goals," he said. "Obviously, we were a little bit sloppy at different points in the game, but found a way to put the puck in the net. That usually fixes those problems."
Zajac received an ovation from the sellout crowd when he stepped on the ice for his first shift of the game. He saw 15:22 of ice time.
"It's definitely exciting to come back to a team that's playing really well, playing with a lot of confidence," said Zajac. "Just to be a part of that was good."
Johan Hedberg made 33 saves to pick up his 10th win. Martin Brodeur will get the start Saturday, when the Devils (17-13-1) visit Montreal.
"Heddy came in and gave us a real good game," DeBoer said. "He was solid. We were a little loose in front of him at different points, and he stabilized things. He was a big part of the win."
A win made more memorable because it came after the Devils honored one of the NHL's greats. Niedermayer was a member of all three Devils' Stanley Cup championships and was joined on the ice by three generations of the Niedermayer family, including his brother, ex-Devil Rob.
"I thought it was great," DeBoer said. "First-class. It brings back a lot of memories, obviously, watching from afar, but you're reminded how great a player he was. You hear him speak and you see his family, and you're reminded how special of a person he is, too."
Said DeBoer: "He's one of the rare guys that has played for that long with that many different players and you never hear a bad word about him. That's pretty rare."
Michael Ryder opened the scoring at 8:40 of the first. Hedberg slid to his right for a great stop on Loui Eriksson, but couldn't recover in time to deny Ryder from the slot.
Clarkson tied it with less than five minutes to go in the frame, surprising Dallas starter Richard Bachman with a sharp-angle shot from the right corner.
Brendan Morrow converted a Mike Ribeiro setup to restore the Stars' lead just 1:38 into the second.
A hard-working play by Parise sparked the Devils' rally. With Cam Janssen in the box for interference, Parise picked the pocket of Stephane Robidas at the Dallas blue line and slid a pass to Henrique on a 2-on-1. The rookie center buried his eighth to knot the contest at 2-2 at 3:35.
"Amazing," DeBoer said. "Guys are remembered for certain goals. Niedermayer for the goal against Detroit [in the '95 Finals] going end-to-end – that's vintage Niedermayer. I think that's vintage Parise, that goal."
Later, on the same Stars power play, Bryce Salvador blocked a Jamie Benn shot that was headed for the back of the net to preserve the tie at 4:39.
Parise then helped the Devils grab their first lead of the night. He made a nifty play to lead a speeding Kovalchuk down the left side for an off-wing wrister that beat Bachman's catching glove for a 3-2 score at 12:12.
Sykora's seventh started with an innocent-looking shot by Ryan Carter from the left circle. Janssen swatted at the rebound before Sykora jammed home the loose puck for a 4-2 count with 1:27 left in the middle frame.
Parise cashed in on a gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing play from Kovalchuk and Adam Larsson to give the Devils a three-goal lead at 9:19 of the third. After Dallas moved back within two goals on Toby Peterson's tally, Elias needed just 20 seconds to make it 6-3. His centering pass for Sykora caromed in off of Stars defenseman Trevor Daley.
With 346 goals, Elias sits just one shy of John MacLean's franchise mark.
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD
4 - 2 NJD