SAN JOSE -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to bring out the best in San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward.
He scored two goals in a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Wednesday. The Sharks, who joined the NHL in the 1991-92 season, won the best-of-7 series 4-2 and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time.
With his second straight two-goal game, Ward has six goals in these playoffs and 20 in his career. It's his ability to produce in the postseason that convinced the Sharks to sign him as a free agent in July, coach Peter DeBoer said.
"I'm a big believer that if you're a clutch playoff performer, that's something that's a gift," DeBoer said. "That doesn't go away. I had Mike Richards. He was that type of guy. I've had different guys over the years that have had that ability, and that's not a flash in the pan. That's something that consistently they have the ability to rise to the occasion this time of year.
"The playoffs fit him. He's a big, heavy guy. I don't think it was any secret, this roster here, considering L.A., Anaheim, St. Louis, we had to get bigger, heavier, harder to play against so that we could play this time of year. Everybody that [general manager] Doug [Wilson] brought in had some of those types of characteristics."
Ward gave San Jose a 2-0 lead at 5:02 of the second period when he redirected a Brent Burns shot past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. Ward extended the lead to 3-0 at 3:01 of the third, taking a cross-ice pass from Logan Couture and scoring from close range.
"Obviously it's good to contribute," Ward said. "Winning is just a great feeling."
The chance to win and go deep in the playoffs was what sold Ward on the Sharks.
"The core group of guys that was here on paper was unbelievable," Ward said. "I've played here many times. It's a tough place to play. Obviously it's a good team. It's been to conference finals. And I think that motivation [from] last year of not making the playoffs, [there] was definitely a hungry attitude. I definitely saw a lot of positive attributes for sure."
Ward made the playoffs with the Nashville Predators in 2010 and 2011, and with the Washington Capitals in 2012, 2013 and 2015, but never got past the second round.
"Obviously you came all this way, you want to complete it," Ward said. "Just very happy for a lot of people here and especially the fans, the people that have been supporting over the years and been through some ups and downs. It's good to see a good opportunity like this. We're just going to enjoy this and refocus here coming up."
Ward said he loved helping long-time Sharks Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. They appreciate all that Ward has done to get the Sharks futher than they've ever been.
"Ward is just a big-time player," Thornton said. "Last year when I was watching the post-season, [he] was a huge part of Washington. I think they miss him this year. You saw again tonight, when the game gets a little bit more important, Ward always shows up and has a big game.