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Ward earns new nickname after recording goal

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Cam Ward wasn't even done pulling off his gear following the Carolina Hurricanes' game-day skate Tuesday before his teammates began peppering him with his new nickname.
Just call him Snipes, as in sniper -- the description often given to a skilled forward who regularly finds the net.
See what scoring a goal in an NHL game will do for one's reputation?
Ward became the first Carolina goalie and only the 10th in NHL history to be credited with a goal when Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk accidentally sailed an intended pass from beyond the end line and into his own empty net during Carolina's 4-2 victory on Monday night. Ward was the last Carolina player to touch the puck on the play.
"I guess they don't ask how -- a goal is a goal," Ward said Tuesday. "It would have been a lot cooler if I actually shot the puck but, hey, but when you look at down the road, it will be kind of cool that you got yourself in the record book as scoring an NHL goal as a goaltender. It definitely was a fluky play that you don't see very often, but pretty neat also."
Regardless, Ward remains a bit stunned that he ended up with a goal in his 378th career game. No NHL goalie had been credited with a goal since Chris Mason of Nashville scored against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 15, 2006.
"My teammates joke with me that they don't even think I can shoot it down the length of the ice," said Ward, whose cell phone is buzzing from text messages sent by friends from around the League.
Ward's feat certainly attracted the Penguins' attention. Coach Dan Bylsma said -- and he was only joking -- that he would assign a defender to Ward, if he played, so that he didn't extend his scoring streak.
And Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said, in sizing up the Hurricanes' offensive talent, "I heard he's hot."
The Penguins need not be worried; Ward is scheduled to get the night off, with Justin Peters starting in net.
Ward admittedly is a bit embarrassed by all the fuss being made about his historic goal, fearing it might eclipse what he felt was a strong defensive effort by his teammates as they improved to 3-1-1 in their last five games.
"The guys have played really well and, for me, I didn't want all the focus to be on that play because we did play a very strong game and we were well-deserving of the win," Ward said. "It's important we keep it going."
If the 27-year-old Ward needs any advice on how to further upgrade his offensive skills, he need not look far. Hurricanes assistant coach Tom Barrasso's 48 career assists are the most by any NHL goalie. But Barrasso never found the net.
Ward had 9 assists coming into this season, but the goal represents his first point in 2011-12. Craig Anderson of Ottawa currently leads all NHL goalies in scoring with 3 assists. Martin Brodeur of the Devils, who has scored a goal in both the regular season and the playoffs, has 39 career regular-season points, including 38 assists.
The trapezoid rule implemented for the 2005-06 season reduced a goaltender's ability to score because it effectively forces him to remain close to the net in playing the puck. Brodeur lamented that the rule severely restricted his ability to jump into a play offensively.
While some NHL goalies still try to score -- Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury among them -- Ward has never intentionally tried to put the puck into the other net. For good reason -- he's never been that brave.
"I have that fear of turning it over right in the slot into my empty net," Ward said. "But maybe in a two-goal lead situation it would be fun to try it out. It would be pretty cool to get one that way, too. I'll go for No. 2."
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