In helping the Washington Capitals force a decisive Game 7 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers, Capitals forward Joel Ward's statistics in Washington's 2-1 victory would appear unremarkable.
Ward had 12:41 of ice time spread across 19 shifts. He didn't figure in the scoring of either of Washington's goals and was credited with four hits. Those numbers will not jump out at anyone, but the way Ward was used by coach Dale Hunter showed the kind of confidence he has in the player who wears No. 42.
In Monday night's Game 5 overtime loss in Madison Square Garden, it was Ward who was whistled for a critical high-sticking double minor with 22 seconds remaining in the third. The Capitals were ahead by one goal at the time of that penalty. With Ward in the penalty box, Brad Richards tied the game in the waning seconds of the third, and Marc Staal won it at 1:35 of overtime.
When the Capitals and Boston Bruins went to overtime of Game 7...