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Ward, Capitals rewarded with buzzer-beating goal

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward knew just enough Russian to score the winning goal with 1.3 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

When asked how to say "I'm open" in Russian, Ward smiled and said "Ovi."

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin heard Ward, who was unchecked in the slot, and slid a pass to him as the third period was running out. Ward fired Ovechkin's feed through Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist's legs to give the Capitals a 2-1 victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

"That was the loudest I've screamed at [Ovechkin]; I think ever," Ward said. "I don't know how much time was left, to be honest. I knew I was in front and I was just screaming."

Ward's goal capped a quick series of events and ended a game that appeared to be headed for overtime.

Ovechkin actually started the game-winning sequence when he carried the puck over the Rangers' blue line with just under 10 seconds remaining. He lost his edge in the right circle, and the puck slid into the right-wing corner, where Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom checked Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle and regained possession.

Backstrom left the puck for Ovechkin, who appeared as though he was going to skate behind the goal with less than five seconds remaining. That's when Ward began screaming for the puck and Ovechkin made a sensational pass from almost behind the right post.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 31 saves, watched the entire play unfold before his eyes.

"When [Ovechkin] turns it on, he turns it on," Holtby said. "You can tell he didn't care when the buzzer was going to go off, and guys fed off that. It ended up in their net."

Ward still doesn't know how Ovechkin made the pass.

"He made an unbelievable pass across his body," Ward said. "He was almost behind the net pretty much and I just took a hard whack at it. I didn't really know what was going on."

Backstrom said he was just looking to make something happen before time ran out.

"We knew there were just a couple seconds left and I tried to forecheck there," Backstrom said of his hit on Boyle. "[Ovechkin] got the puck behind the net, fed Ward in front. I mean, I think it was a little shocking because I feel like everyone was waiting for the overtime. But we'll take it."

Backstrom's hit dropped Boyle to the ice and appeared to leave the Rangers flustered.

"I feel like we all just kind of stopped when Boyle went down," Lundqvist said. "We lost our focus a little bit and gave up the last chance. The way it happened, I was kind of going to my right and it looked like the puck was going to come out on my right and then when it came out, I was too late to come down. It's a tough one."

Ovechkin finished the game with one goal, one assist, two points, a plus-1 rating, six shots on goal and six more attempted shots. He came up big when the Capitals needed him most.

"I'll be honest with you, I didn't see what happened there on the puck," Ovechkin said. "Obviously you see them celebrating so [I knew] it went in the net."

Ward wasn't even aware what had happened until the center ice scoreboard showed the replay to confirm the goal was scored with time remaining.

"We were high-fiving and dancing, I didn't know I beat the buzzer or not until we all looked up," Ward said. "I had no idea at the time and was just celebrating at that moment. I looked up and it felt good."

Washington coach Barry Trotz said his team was rewarded for playing right to the end of regulation time.

"The puck was in the corner and Boyle was trying to kill the clock basically in the corner. We played through and got the puck free and got it to the front of the net with virtually no time left," Trotz said. "We kept playing."

Trotz was also glad to see Ward come up big for a second straight game; he scored the first goal in a 2-1 victory against the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round series on Monday.

Prior to taking over in Washington this season, Trotz coached Ward for three seasons with the Nashville Predators from 2008-11.

"He was always making the right play and was very intelligent with the puck then," Trotz said. "He's not the quickest, but his brain worked in a really good way. He's been a gamer and he's a high-quality person."

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