Last year, the relatively unknown forward surprised the entire league by scoring seven goals in 12 playoff games for the Nashville Predators. This included a game-winning goal against the eventual Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 of the Conference Semifinals. His efforts helped lead the Predators to their first series victory in franchise history.
After the season, he signed a four-year, $12 million free-agent contract with the Washington Capitals almost entirely on the strength of his postseason performance just a few months before.
But prior to Wednesday night's Game 7 in Boston, last year's playoff hero had yet to repeat his magic so far this postseason. Ward had been held without a goal through the first six games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins.
The Capitals were waiting for the gritty winger to once again shine on hockey's brightest stage.
The last time the series was in Boston, Joel Ward made an impact for the Capitals. Early in the third period of Game 5, Ward sent a slap shot toward Tim Thomas that the Boston goaltender was unable to control. The puck went right to Mike Knuble, who stashed the rebound to take the lead. The Capitals went on to win that game, thanks to Troy Brouwer's power-play goal late in the third.
But back in DC for Game 6, the Caps fell in overtime to the Bruins.
The Caps had drawn even late in the third period with Alex Ovechkin's second goal of the series, but Washington failed to close out the defending Stanley Cup champions on home ice. So, the series returned to Boston for one final game.
The Boston Bruins looked to continue their quest to become the first repeat Stanley Cup champion in 14 years. But the Washington Capitals were looking to exorcise their Game 7 demons and shock the Boston faithful.
Once again, the hardworking pair of Joel Ward and Mike Knuble would team up to determine the outcome.
Play the video to see playoff history as it unfolded.
Listen to Capitals radio announcer John Walton to hear playoff hysteria as it unfolded.