Ward loses lead but still has fun

Staff WriterJanuary 31, 2011 

— Cam Ward joked during pregame NHL All-Star interviews that his goal, as the starting goalie for Team Staal, was to keep Team Lidstrom under five during the first period.

The Carolina Hurricanes star succeeded, but only by a whisker in the RBC Center on Sunday.

With an early 4-0 lead, Ward gave up four goals fast in a period that ended 4-4 en route to an 11-10 victory for Nicklas Lidstrom's team.

"Those guys are All-Stars," Ward said. "They're going to score."

In an unusual twist, Ward served as a first-period on-ice commentator of sorts for the Versus television network.

Approached Sunday and asked to wear a live microphone during the opening 20 minutes, Ward agreed in the spirit of being a gracious host.

"I knew it could possibly turn out the way it did," he said. "You definitely won't ever see me doing that in regular season, but it was kind of fun."

Versus announcers Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk obviously enjoyed the back-and-forth banter with the Conn Smythe Award (most valuable player) winner of the 2006 Stanley Cup champions. Maybe too much, in fact.

At about the 10-minute mark and with the lead at 4-0, the Versus crew mentioned to Ward that he was working on a shutout - a jinx statement for sure in the superstitious world of pro hockey.

"Oh, no. Here it comes now, here it comes," Ward kidded.

But sure enough, only several seconds later, forward Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings zipped a shot past Ward to open the scoring barrage for Team Lidstrom.

"It's a good thing we only see that guy once a year," Ward said on air after the shot.

That meeting already has taken place - a 4-3 Kings win in Los Angeles on Oct. 20. Kopitar had a goal in that one, too. It was his first of the season, but it wasn't against Ward.

Backup Canes goalie Justin Peters got the call. Ward was in net the previous night in a 5-2 win over the Sharks at San Jose.

Kopitar's goal in the All-Star Game wasn't nearly as important, but it did jump start his team's tempo.

"We were down 4-0, so you know it was enough time to wait for it," Kopitar said. "There was a mini-break, and luckily for me, it went in."

In short order, Dustin Byfuglien (Atlanta Thrashers), Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars) and Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) tacked on goals behind Kopitar's.

But it was the experience of playing his first All-Star Game in the host city that Ward said he'll remember most about the weekend.

"It was a lot of fun," Ward said. "It was great for the players and the fans from out of town ... to see how hockey is down here in the South. I think they're going home with a different perspective on Raleigh and the game in itself, because it was just a party and entertainment.

"We're blessed with the fact that we get to play here every day."

In another interesting twist, goalie Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins got the win even though he was tagged for four goals in the third.

When Thomas and Ward next meet, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the RBC Center, the stakes will be higher and the mood significantly more serious.

The Canes exit the All-Star break in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and one point behind Southeast Division rival Atlanta, 57-56, in the chase for a playoff berth.

Thomas, All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara and the Bruins lead the Northeast Division with 63 points.

With only 32 games to go in the regular season, the Canes can't afford to play the role of gracious hosts now that the All-Star party is history.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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