In fact, Ward actually had one of his better games Saturday in Game 3 and was still riddled for five goals on 39 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Penguins that gives Pittsburgh a 3-0 series edge. His frustration began to mount during the latter stages of the second period when the 'Canes seemed to have no answer for Pittsburgh’s offensive assault. The Pens held a 31-16 advantage in shots through two periods and a 40-34 edge for the game.
"I honestly wouldn't look too much at that," Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams said. "If you look at the first two periods of this game, we had 31 shots. I mean, he made some unbelievable saves -- deflections, rebounds and Max Talbot had two unbelievable chances in the second. I felt we could have put the game out of reach in the second half of the second period and he kept them in it. When they got the second one, it was a game again. I give him credit."
Ward has allowed 14 goals on 111 shots (.888 save percentage) in this series and his 4.66 goals-against average is actually two times greater than his combined goals per game ratio against the Devils and Boston Bruins in the opening two rounds.
There was some speculation that Ward might be playing with an unspecified injury, but Carolina coach Paul Maurice denied those rumors during his Sunday press conference. Both teams were given the day off Sunday.
"He's 100 percent today," Maurice said of Ward. "Everybody's got something this time of year, but when he's gotten to the net, he's been able to perform."
Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason placed some of the blame on himself at the end of Game 3, admitting the need to play better in front of Ward in order to give him a fighter's chance. Eric Staal also noted that Ward wasn't to blame. But Carolina's goalie, who has never lost a seven-game series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six tries, is obviously trying to do all he can while his team struggles to find their game.
Unfortunately for Ward, Carolina has yet to find their comfort zone.
"Cam is right where the rest of our team is at this stage," Maurice said. "You look at (Game 3) and he made some great saves but they had some real good plays over the course of the game and maybe there were a few he'd like to have back so, you ask yourself, is it the shooter? The guy going to the net on their third goal (Evgeni Malkin) does that pretty well."
Maurice was referring to Malkin's crushing goal with 11.9 seconds left in the first when he sped down his right-wing before curling into the circle, forcing Ward to move from left to right while depositing his 12th of the playoffs. It gave the Pens a 3-1 lead.
"He gets (Ward) to move enough to open him up a little bit," Maurice said. "He didn't leave him a lot and didn't make a bad play as a goalie -- it's just a pretty good play."
The fact Ward hasn't spoken following losses in Game 2 and 3 is a sign the 25-year-old goalie is literally at a loss for words at this stage.
"You can't really blame (Ward) on a lot of those goals," Staal said. "There are some pretty good players coming in on some odd man rushes, some three-on-twos, some screens. He made some big saves in the second period and that kind of gave us a chance in the third."
Staal, who hasn't scored in six-straight games and is a minus-6 through three games of this series, is confident the team will dig itself out of the 0-3 hole it has created.
"We've never been in this spot before, but if I had to pick a team to be in this spot and come back, this would be the one because we've done it all year and we've done it in these playoffs," Staal said. "We're going to take it one game at a time and we're going to work our tails off on Tuesday because that's what we do."
"All it takes is one and they're attacking our goal again," he said. "You can't let up for a second against these guys because they're that good."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.