BOSTON -- Mike Knuble has played in many Stanley Cup Playoff games, but the 39-year-old forward wasn't in the lineup for the first three games of the Washington Capitals' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.
He might only have earned a sweater for Game 4 because of a suspension to Nicklas Backstrom, but he made a key play in overtime to help the Caps eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champs Wednesday in Game 7 and advance to the second round.
Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg tried to send the puck into the Washington zone from near the right wall, but Knuble got in the way. He chased after the puck and went in almost a direct line to the Boston net.
"When it comes to playoff time, you never know who's going to score the goals," said Washington coach Dale Hunter, who has the other Game 7 overtime goal for the Capitals, in 1988 against Philadelphia. "And the guys who are big guys, character guys -- [Knuble] blocked a shot and took off. [Ward] went with him, and they got rewarded for it."
Knuble has spent most of his three seasons in Washington on the team's top line, with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but this season his role has been reduced drastically. He has been in and out of the lineup, and often seeing only third- or fourth-line minutes.
Like Knuble, Ward's season had not gone according to plan before Wednesday. Ward signed with the Capitals in the offseason to help provide secondary scoring and postseason toughness after a star turn with Nashville during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There were increased expectations for Ward, who inked a four-year, $12 million contract after seven playoff goals in two rounds last spring. He ended up scoring only six goals in the regular season, spending time as an expensive healthy scratch or playing on the fourth line.
Knuble and Ward played the fewest minutes of anyone on the Capitals in Game 7, but there they both were when Washington needed a play to dethrone the champs.
"It is great. We chipped in [for a goal] in Game 5 here, and then came back with one late [in Game 7," Knuble said. "It is a big thrill for me, for Joel. It is always a thrill with the fourth-line guys. They don't expect you to be the scorers, and when you're able to pitch in, it is a great feeling."