When the San Jose Sharks went out and got Joel Ward as an unrestricted free agent last summer, his penchant for big goals in the postseason had to be one of the reasons they targeted him. The big winger came through in that regard in Game 7 Thursday night.
With the Sharks already leading the Nashville Predators, one of Ward’s former teams, 1-0, the big guy got a favorable bounce. Melker Karlsson had cleared the puck off the boards simply in an effort to get the puck out of the zone. The Predators had both defensemen back to accept it. However, as the puck approached Roman Josi, it hit the ice on its edge and slowed down just enough before it reached the Preds rearguard.
Ward turned on the jets, chipped the puck up and over Josi’s stick before side-stepping the Nashville defenseman. He still had Shea Weber in pursuit as he approached the Predators net, so Ward faked like he was going wide. Goalie Pekka Rinne absolutely bit on it and Ward made him pay.
The Sharks forward cut back to the middle, made a quick move and slipped the puck through Rinne to make it 2-0. The confidence in that finish showed just how dialed in Ward was on that play. He did not have much time to get that one past Rinne once he got control of the puck and he made it look almost casual.
That goal was Ward’s third career goal in a Game 7. He also now has six points in six career Game 7 situations.
The Sharks didn’t do a lot this offseason, but the additions they did make mattered big time, especially as Ward added yet another goal in a huge game and was it ever a pretty one.
The rest of the team looked pretty good, too. San Jose outshot the Predators 17-3 in the opening period as they look determined to make sure they move on to the Western Conference Final.