Zach Parise COL handshake after game 6 loss

DENVER -- Zach Parise was greeted by several Colorado Avalanche players at his stall, each giving the 39-year-old forward a handshake and a hug.

This was minutes after the veteran of 19 NHL seasons saw his last attempt at winning a Stanley Cup end in a heartbreaking double-overtime 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round.

“Little bit of shock,” Parise said. “I don’t know. I mean, it’s one of those you feel you played well enough to win the game and force a Game 7. Just didn’t happen.”

He signed a one-year contract with the Avalanche on Jan. 26. He has said several times that this was going to be his last NHL season, whether or not he came away with the Cup. He finished with three points (two goals, one assist) in 11 postseason games. In what was likely his final NHL game, he played 25:17, the third highest total of NHL career.

“It’s tough because we talk him into coming here, he had some options and the goal is to succeed as always, especially when you know you’ve got a guy or two and it might be their last kick of the can,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “You want to help them achieve their goals.

“They put so much into when they come here, they fit in right away, do whatever they can do to help our team. He’s just such a great pro and great person. Everyone in our room was rooting for him. Everyone has their motivations. Everyone is playing as hard as they can and I’m sure that’s part of it.”

The Avalanche were doing a lot right especially through the first two periods of Game 6. Mikko Rantanen gave them a 1-0 lead with his power-play goal at 5:48 of the second period. It was almost as if they were playing the Stars’ game better than the Stars, stifling them, clogging up the neutral zone, not allowing a lot of big scoring opportunities.

The Stars gained some life when Jamie Benn tied the game 1-1 at 1:56 of the third period. It was later in the third period when the Stars started taking over. They even appeared to win in the first overtime, but forward Mason Marchment’s shot into the net was waved off due to goaltender interference.

“It was tiring, no question. You could see our energy level drop as the periods went on, but our guys played hard. We played hard every shift. We defended hard,” Bednar said. “We had some stretches where we spent a bunch of time in our own zone. We’re sacrificing, doing whatever we can to keep the puck out of the net, lots of blocks, limited scoring chances or high-danger chances for the most part. They played hard both sides of it.”

Stars forward Matt Duchene, who was selected No. 3 by the Avalanche in the 2009 NHL Draft and played nine seasons with them, won the game at 11:42 of the second overtime.

“Just a back and forth, it was a grind the whole game,” Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano said. “Obviously both teams deserve to win and they got the extra goal.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow. We had guys playing huge minutes, guys were exhausted and just kept playing hard. We just couldn’t get that next goal.”

Indeed, Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar played just over 38 minutes. His defensive partner Devon Toews played 37:33. Nathan MacKinnon led all forwards with 36:32 of ice time and Rantanen played 35:05.

“In our mind they were probably the best team in the West, and we felt we were right there with them and we could compete with them,” Toews said. “They’re so structured. It’s what we’re trying to do as well and it makes the game a little slow sometimes. But their ability to stick with their game through and through, even though we’re pushing, is pretty impressive. Kudos to them for sticking with it.”

The Avalanche last won the Cup in 2022 and have many still remaining from that team. They thought they had a great opportunity to do it again this season. So did Parise; that drew him to Colorado.

Parise said that he’ll now root for the Stars, given relationships he has with some of their personnel.

Stars coach Pete DeBoer was his coach with the New Jersey Devils in the 2011-12 season when Parise got the closest to the Stanley Cup, New Jersey falling to the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the Cup Final. It was their only season together in New Jersey.

Parise left the Devils after seven seasons to sign with his hometown Minnesota Wild. There he was teammates with current Stars defenseman Ryan Suter for nine seasons.

He would play 1,254 NHL regular-season games and 122 postseason games for the Devils, Stars, New York Islanders and the Avalanche.

Parise called his time with the Avalanche “amazing.” It just ended sooner than any of them wanted.

“It really was an enjoyable time. Sometimes it pushed me to a spot I didn’t feel I could still do. It was just being around these guys and the level of talent of these players it was pretty special,” he said.

“This team’s not going anywhere. They’re going to be around and they’re going to win again. So, it was a great group of people to be a part of.”