Joel Ward played like a man possessed during the 2011 NHL playoffs for the Nashville Predators. He racked up seven goals and 13 points in 12 games after a regular season in which he only produced 29 points. This season, it took seven games for Ward to finally score a playoff goal, but it was worth the wait for the rest of the Washington Capitals and their fans.
Ward potted the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Capitals' first-round upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
The goal came nearly three minutes into the overtime period off a neutral zone turnover by the Bruins, which led to a two-on-one breakout for the Capitals. Tim Thomas stopped Mike Knuble’s initial shot. However, none of the Bruins' back-checking defenders could get to the loose puck before Ward, who slid a backhander between Thomas’ legs to win the game and the series.
The victory puts Washington into the second round of the playoffs, making many fans forget about the roller-coaster regular season that they suffered through; almost missing the post season entirely for the first time in five years.
The Capitals' opponent in the next round hasn’t been determined yet. It could be a number of teams, depending on what happens in the other two Eastern Conference first-round series that conclude tomorrow. The only thing we know for sure is that they will start on the road, which may not be a bad thing considering they won three of their four road games in the opening round against the Bruins.
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