It’s hard to say which was more important: Cam Ward winning his 300th game for the Carolina Hurricanes or the Canes winning a game.
Ward had a quick answer to that Tuesday in Las Vegas after the Canes’ 3-2 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Let’s be serious, we needed a win,” he said.
That the 300 career wins all have come with the Hurricanes is quite the milestone. That it came in a shootout at T-Mobile Arena also had a touch of irony.
Ward in a shootout has never been a safe bet during his career, but he shined Tuesday in Las Vegas as the Canes ended a four-game winless streak on the six-game road trip that ends Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.
“It feels real good and it’s something I’ve been striving for for a while and was fortunate to get,” Ward said of No. 300. “I thought the guys put forth a great effort, especially coming in a back-to-back situation.
“To face a new team in a new building, a new city, it was a fun atmosphere. You can see why they have the record they do at home. They put on a good show here and it was fun to be a part of.”
The Golden Knights, in their first year, have become one of the league’s most compelling stories. Taking the expansion castoffs from the other 30 teams, the Knights had a 19-9-1 record before Tuesday and were 11-2-0 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights also had Marc-Andre Fleury back in net, adding more punch and emotion to the game. Fleury, with his 378 career wins, had been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a concussion and was playing his comeback game.
“He’s a guy I respect a lot,” Ward said. “Obviously I’ve been going up against him for a lot of years and he’s got a lot more wins than I do. It was great to see him back in the net.”
Ward’s first career victory came in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 2005. Now, No. 300.
“It’s kind of weird how it all comes in a circle,” Ward said. “Again, just thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my whole career to stay in the same organization for 13 years and get those 300 wins.”
Ward hasn’t gotten as many of chances this season with Scott Darling brought in to be the Canes’ No. 1 goalie. The start Tuesday against the Golden Knights was his ninth appearance of the season.
Ward became the 32nd goalie in NHL history to win 300 games. Among the five active goalies with 300 wins, only Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers has all his victories with one franchise.
The Canes needed a goal from Brock McGinn to extend the shootout, and got it. Phil Di Giuseppe then had a chance to win it for the Canes and did.
The Canes all swarmed around Ward as Jeff Skinner collected the puck as a memento for his goalie. It was their first victory celebration since beating the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Dec. 2 at PNC Arena.
“We’ve been on the road for about 10 days now looking for our first win,” Ward said. “It’s a big confidence booster. We needed to put two points in the board. Hopefully we can build on this.”