BOSTON — Joel Ward’s phone buzzed Wednesday afternoon. It was a text message from mentor, friend and former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes.
After Joel Ward scored the goal of his career in overtime to send the Washington Capitals to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a victory over the Boston Bruins, Weekes didn’t want to take credit.
“I just told him, just believe in yourself, see the moment, seize the moment, be a bull along the boards and own the front of the net,” Weekes said late Wednesday night. “A credit to him. He listened.”
Ward’s goal was his first with a goalie in the net since Jan. 7, undoubtedly a culmination of a rough season that included his being a healthy scratch more than a handful of times.
It was a hard-working goal from a hard-working player, and the perfect result of Weekes’ advice. After Mike Knuble blocked Benoit Pouliot’s shot, he and Ward went down the ice.
“It happened so fast. But I knew that he was going to take the puck to the net,” Ward said. “I wasn’t really looking for a pass across. I was just trying to follow up just in case there was a puck loose or a rebound. I just kind of saw it there and just gave it one of the hardest whacks I’ve ever given a puck.”
Ward put up three points in the final three games of the series. Weekes brushed off credit, but the 31-year-old right wing called the message important.
“I took those words from a guy that I’ve looked up to for many years,” Ward said. “My first Game 7 experience, I figured i’d learn from somebody who’s been through it a bit and go from there.”
As Ward sat at his locker after the victory, he marveled at the reporters surrounding him. Meanwhile, Knuble, tossed the game-winning puck up in the air and wondered whether to give it to goaltender Braden Holtby.
Nope, Ward scored a game-winner in overtime. So Knuble walked over to Ward and dropped the puck into his hands. Ward flashed a smile.
But he didn’t know what was next for that puck.
“I don’t know yet. I just got and so much is going on,” he said. “I think it’s just carry it home and I don’t know put it somewhere next to my bed for a minute just to embrace this and enjoy this and then keep it moving, hopefully get more.”