Zach Parise didn't start the playoffs for the Wild, but the veteran winger finished them as one of the team's offensive leaders.
And that turnaround puts the spotlight on where he fits with the Wild in the future.
"We were all motivated to play a Game 7," Parise said after the Wild was eliminated from the postseason Friday with a 6-2 loss to the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. "These are special games and opportunities. With all the sideshow stuff that's been going on, yeah, I was ready to play from Day 1. Tonight was no different."
After beginning the season in the top-six forward group, Parise slid down the depth chart to the fourth line and then eventually out of the lineup all together.
He was a healthy scratch for three of the last four games of the regular season and was also idle for Games 1-3 against Vegas. Parise returned in Game 4 when the Wild was forced to make a change after winger Marcus Johansson broke his left arm in Game 3, and Parise debuted on the fourth line.
But once he was promoted to play alongside winger Kevin Fiala and center Ryan Hartman, Parise began to chip in on offense. He scored during the Wild's 4-2 win in Game 5, assisted on the game-deciding goal in Game 6 and then tied Game 7 at 1 late in the first period when he whacked a deflected puck between his legs while his back was to the net. In the end, his two goals and three points tied for the most on the Wild in the playoffs.
"There was never any doubt in my mind that I can play and be an impact player in the series and in these games," Parise said ahead of Game 7.
After the game, Parise said the conversation about his role will "be for a different day.
"We'll see where it goes," he continued. "I don't know. I don't know. We'll have to figure that out in the coming summer what's going to happen, but I really don't have an answer on that right now."
The 36-year-old is under contract for another four seasons, a 13-year, $98 million pact with the Wild that includes a no-movement clause.
"I've got four years left in my deal," Parise said. "That's, I guess, not really up to me at the time. But right now, just disappointed in the outcome of the game."
Jonas Brodin played less than two minutes of Game 7 before getting knocked out of the action when the Golden Knights' Nicolas Roy leveled Brodin by the Wild bench, ramming Brodin's left side into the boards.
That left the Wild with just five defensemen for the rest of the night, including rookie Calen Addison who was skating in his third playoff game and making his sixth appearance in the NHL overall.
"You can make up a forward obviously when you've [got] 12 of them," said Wild coach Dean Evason, who didn't know the extent of Brodin's injury after the game. "You've got six guys back there, and it's very difficult. People are playing out of position and playing too many minutes and different minutes. It disrupts obviously.
"Compound that with the guy [out] usually eats up the most minutes and skates like the wind and can get back for pucks and breaks it out and all those things. It was a huge loss for us, no question. But very proud of the five guys that are back there."
In Brodin's absence, Ryan Suter logged a series-high 28 minutes, 50 seconds. Matt Dumba played 28:47.
"They come at you in waves, so give the other five guys out there a ton of credit battling," goaltender Cam Talbot said. "It's not easy to fill those minutes, and they all did an admirable job [Friday night]. Against a group like that in a building like this, [Brodin's] never an easy guy to replace that's for sure."
Center Joel Eriksson Ek was also hurt, aggravating an injury from Game 6.
Despite leaving the game in the second period, Eriksson Ek continued to play.
"You'd like to say if everyone's healthy, we'd be a different team maybe, possibly," winger Marcus Foligno said. "But it is what it is."
Minor not a major
Suter went face-first into the post in the second period after getting shoved from behind by Vegas' Ryan Reaves.
"It wasn't good," Suter said. "Didn't feel good, but that's part of the game. Just gotta put it behind you and move on."
The Wild was awarded a two-minute power play, with Reaves getting tagged for interference, but Suter thought a major penalty could have been called. The explanation Evason received on why the penalty didn't escalate had to do with where the infraction happened.
"They can't call it boarding because it's at the net and not the boards," Evason said. "It was pretty violent, obviously. Probably another key moment."