Caps KO Champs 2-1 in OT of game seven
The Washington Capitals signed Joel Ward away from Nashville last summer following the forwards impressive playoff performance.
On Wednesday night, Ward rewarded the Caps with a game-winning goal in overtime of game seven to oust the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Talk about paying off.
Ward's goal came just 2:57 into overtime as the No. 7 seed Caps dethroned the No. 2 seed Bruins, winning three games out of four in Boston in the process. Caps goalie Braden Holtby, proving to be a road warrior, made 31 stops on 32 shots to outduel Boston's Tim Thomas (25 saves on 27 shots) yet again.
The 22-year-old Holtby was playing in his first ever playoff series, but played like a gristled veteran in winning three road games in a tough enviornment in Boston. Despite two 40+ save performances early in the series, game seven might have been his best. On a night where he fought off the puck several times and didn't look his sharpest, Holtby shook it off and made key saves during three Bruins powerplays to preserve the Caps long enough to strike in OT.
After Matt Hendricks' great redirection in the first, the Caps held a 1-0 lead after one period. It took the Bruins until 14:27 of the second period to solve a shaky Holtby when Tyler Seguin pushed home a rebound in front of the Caps net. The game stayed 1-1 until Mike Knuble took a failed Bruins clear and streaked in with Ward on a partial two-on-one. Thomas made the initial save on Knuble, but left a juicy rebound on top of the crease. Ward snuck in and buried the loose puck beneath the legs of Thomas for the winner.
Talk about great timing for your first goal of the playoffs, eh?
For Ward, Dale Hunter and the Caps, it couldn't have been any better. The Caps will move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they could play a host of opponents, but one thing is for sure; they'll be more than happy to be there.
And when they get there, they'll have a superstar in Alex Ovechkin out to prove that he's still a difference maker. The Caps captain played 16:25 minutes in game seven, only four Caps had lower ice time than the former Rocket Richard winner (Knuble, Hendricks, Schultz, Semin). Even enigmatic sniper Alex Semin, in just 14 mintues of ice-time, was seen blocking shots on multiple occasions. It's clear that Ovechkin has found himself somewhat in the doghouse of coach Dale Hunter, and if he wants to get out, he'd better start playing better two-way hockey or else Hunter will have no choice but to continue to sit his star.
But it's all a moot point at the moment, because the Caps are moving on to the second round, a place where not too many people thought they'd be even a week ago.
- Joel Ward. GWG in a game seven as an underdog on the road, talk about creeping into legendary status, if just for a spring.
- Dennis Wideman. The former Bruin defended a two-on-one for the Bruins perfectly late in the third and probably saved the Caps' season.
- Holtby. Need I say more. The guy simply outplayed a Vezina-caliber goaltender in six of seven games. Dude is soo money, and he knows it.