From the Final in 2012 to Finality in 2013.

And when Martin Brodeur was asked if he could define the difference in the Devils from one year to the next in the moments following regular-season Game 45 elimination from playoff contention with yesterday’s 4-1 Garden defeat to the Rangers, the all-time goaltender didn’t hesitate.

“There’s Zach,” he said, meaning captain Zach Parise, the first-line winger who left the Eastern Conference champions behind in July to accept a 13-year, $98 million free agent offer from his home state Wild. “That’s a top-three forward we never got back.”

The Devils won after Alex Mogilny left as a free agent. They won after Bobby Holik left as a free agent. They managed to be a very competitive club for a while after Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski left as free agents.

But that was a different time. This Devils’ team just was not deep enough to compensate for Parise leaving the only NHL home he had ever known to go home to Minnesota.