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Ward pleased with victory but says he and team focused on continuing to improve

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

By reputation, Geoff Ward has never been a centre-stage sorta guy.

Not one to actively seek so much as a sliver, a shard, of the spotlight.

Around 7:35 p.m. he found himself out front, centre stage, in his first turn at the microphone in front of the Flames' backdrop in the Ed Whalen Media Lounge at the Scotiabank Saddledome, post-game.

"It hasn't sunk in fully yet,'' conceded Ward, digesting a 3-1 conquest of the Ottawa Senators, which marked his home debut at the rudder.

"Nerves? No. It's business as usual. Once you get in game mode, it's the same for me.

"It's a little bit of a different role on the bench but in terms of preparing for the game, it's just the same.

"So nerves? No.

"Sunk in yet? No. But getting there."

In terms of artistic merit, Saturday's game was a mucking, grinding victory. 

"Good teams, winning teams, they know how manage games,'' said Ward. "Even on nights when you're not having your best effort, defensively and away from the puck you're still good and you find a way to keep yourself in the game a lot of nights win the game.

"For us, it's important we reinforce the progress that we've made because defence needs to be there.

"If you're not good defensively, you have no chance in this league."

Still, in a game largely earmarked by hard graft, contested in incremental inches rather than spectacular swatches, a lovely alley-oop pass from Sean Monahan to Elias Lindholm - think a Kyle Lowry soap-bubble of a lofted pass to Kawhi Leonard for a sinister jam at the rim - behind retreating Ottawa D-man Ron Hainsey snapped a 1-1 tie at a decidedly delicate moment: Only 1:01 after the Sens had hit for the equalizer.

Lindholm would pot his second of the night into an empty Ottawa net at 18:26 of third - during a powerplay - to seal the deal.

"A real good play by Mony,'' praised Ward of the go-ahead goal. "He didn't have much room, made an aerial over the top and Lindy skated onto it.

"We talk about it: If there's no ice in front of you, use the ice behind."


Video: "The mood on the bench has been real, real good."


Finally being back on home soil and contesting a game was a welcome normalcy in a tumultuous week that saw the resignation of Flames' head coach Bill Peters.

"It's been crazy,'' acknowledged left-winger Matthew Tkachuk of the last few days. "But being able to settle in back here after a lengthy road trip helps. It's good that we got the two (points) tonight because we're off (between games) for … I think it's five days.

"Once we play Thursday, the other teams behind us in games will start catching up so we'll have a good idea where we stand.

"I thought we did a good job of playing a good, solid defensive team game. We didn't give them much at all. They did the same thing to us. There wasn't much out there."

Just enough, as it turned out, for the Flames to notch a third win in four starts.

"I thought we were much, much better away from the puck,'' reckoned Ward. "I thought we were tracking really hard on it with our forwards, allowing our D to stand up. I thought the guys did a better job when we didn't have anything in front to get the puck behind and go to work.

"I thought we did a really good job of keeping the puck to the outside for the majority of the night and we (ground) it out real well to get the win."

Once again, the goaltending of David Rittich and the continuing consistency of the Derek Ryan, Milan Lucic and Dylan Dube line were of inestimable value in outlasting the Sens in this tug-o-war.

"A tight game,'' agreed Dube, who scored directly off a face-off at 18:56 of the first period to propel the Flames on top. "Shots even. Everybody was above each other so nobody had much space. Overall, I thought we did a good job of not giving them much and taking our chances when we needed to.

"Playing with those two guys who are both very reliable defensively helps us all offensively."
In order to allow the players to exhale and regain their bearings after the road swing and change behind the bench, Ward gave the team both Sunday and Monday off before reconvening to prepare for an invasion by the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

"We can be happy with the progress we're making but we sure can't be satisfied,'' he said.

"Because there's a lot more there."

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