Joel Ward is the hero as the Capitals beat the Bruins and advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Of course Game 7 of the incredibly tight series between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins would go to overtime.
That was almost a given.
But who would score the series-clinching goal was anyone's guess.
For those of you who picked Joel Ward with a Kreskin-like premonition, congratulations. That's because no one else would have guessed the fourth-line grinder would be the one to end the defending Stanley Cup champions' season on their home ice.
That, however, is exactly what Ward did. His backhander slid past Tim Thomas just three minutes into the extra session to give the Caps a 2-1 win. It also led Caps fans across the world to let out a huge sigh of relief. They did it. They really did it. They won a Game 7 overtime thriller and are now moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's our dream to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs and play for the Cup," Brooks Laich said. "There's been some frustration here in the past, and to beat a good team and move on, we're very excited."
The team that was given nearly zero chance of beating the Bruins shocked the hockey world Wednesday night. It's now anyone's guess how far this win will lead them the rest of the postseason.
"It shows a lot about our character in here," goalie Braden Holtby said after the game. "We're going to learn a lot from this series moving forward."
Ward teamed up with fellow plugger Mike Knuble on the game-winner. Knuble cut down the left wing and fended off backchecker Benoit Pouliot with his body just long enough to get a backhand shot on net. Thomas wasn't able to control the rebound as Knuble crashed the crease, leaving just enough room for Ward to swoop in and send a backhander of his own into the net.
"It felt rewarding, for sure," Ward told Comcast SportsNet after the game. "I wanted to contribute in the series and help the team win."
He certainly did just that.
Game 7 was yet another defensive showdown between the two clubs. Matt Hendricks opened the scoring in the first period with a nice deflection of a point shot from John Carlson. Tyler Seguin tied it in the second period with a diving effort to poke a puck past Holtby.
After that, it was shutdown time. Both teams had their chances, but defense stole the show.
The Caps' best chance in the third period came off the stick of Alex Ovechkin. Washington's superstar was stymied the entire game by the tight checking of Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara, and that was never more evident than with eight minutes to go in the third period.
Seidenberg lost his stick in the corner during a Caps' power play, opening up just the slightest bit of space for Ovechkin to work in the offensive zone. Ovi got a pass in the slot and fired a quick blast on net in what looked like a glorious scoring opportunity. And it would have been had Seidenberg not dropped to the ice and blocked the shot almost effortlessly with a shin guard.
Not long after, the Bruins went down the other way on a 2-on-1 against Carlson, but the stalwart defenseman was able to break up the play, eliminating the scoring opportunity for Boston. And then with just over two minutes to go in the game the Bruins got a power play but were not able to cash in -- a familiar theme throughout the series with the man advantage.
That meant the game would end to OT, and that's when anything can happen -- and anyone can become a hero. That's exactly what Ward did.
So it's now on to the second round against an opponent yet to be determined. But no matter who it is, they will be in for another fight against a very confident Capitals squad.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, for sure," Ward told Comcast SportsNet. "We definitely got a lot of confidence, and Holts got his swagger going."
Swag on, Caps, swag on.