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Carolina's 'rock' authors another masterpiece

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- Carolina center Eric Staal knows all about Cam Ward's ability to rise to the occasion.

In 2006, Ward was clutch time and again in the postseason as the Hurricanes marched to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title, a journey that was punctuated by Ward authoring a 3-1 victory against Edmonton in Game 7. That win, as well as the ones that preceded it, allowed him to become the first rookie goalie since Ron Hextall in 1987 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Now it appears Ward is up to his old tricks. He turned in a 36-save shutout Sunday night against Boston in Game 2, a 3-0 victory by Carolina that evened the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal at a game apiece with the series moving to Raleigh for Game 3 on Wednesday.

"He is our rock," said Stall, who had an empty-net goal and an assist in the game. "He needs to play well every night in order for us to have a shot at winning and he did that tonight for us."

Ward played well in the first two periods Sunday night, making 20 saves. He played out of his head in the third period, turning aside all 16 shots a desperate Boston team threw his way. The Bruins out-shot Carolina 16-3 in that final period, but couldn't get anything past Ward.

Not even what should have been a gimme goal by Michael Ryder, one of the hottest scorers in the playoffs. On the play in question, Ryder found a puck that had squirted through a mass of humanity in front of Ward and he shoveled the puck toward the net, thinking Ward would be screened.

Wrong. Instead, Ward flashed his leg pad and denied the opportunity.

"That’s a glimpse of how good he is," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.

And a hot goalie has the ability to change a series in a hurry, a fact of which the Bruins are keenly aware. Last season, Montreal rookie Carey Price began earning his reputation at the expense of Boston's shooters in a first-round series the Canadiens took in seven games.

Boston doesn't want to let Ward get comfortable and find the zone he was in three years ago as a rookie playing in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He’s a great goalie," Boston center Patrice Bergeron said. "We were expecting that kind of play from him and he’s doing that. We just got to make sure we make the job tough for him. If he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it, we know that. So we just got to go out there and put some bodies in front, get some rebounds and learn from tonight and go to the next game."

Ward saw the puck in Game 2. His defense kept the crease area clean for the most part -- except for that wild ride in the third period -- and also cut down on the odd-man rushes that tormented Ward in Game 1.

Ward did his part, as well. He was much better at controlling his rebounds. When he couldn't smother the initial shot, he made sure he concentrated on steering rebounds to the corners and away from dangerous areas of the ice.

"I can help out our defense if I can control the rebounds," Ward said. "I felt like I was seeing it pretty well. They had a lot more shots today, but as long as you control those rebounds, you're going to reduce their opportunities."

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