DALLAS — Cam Ward usually is as steady and mild-mannered as they come, but he was still seething when he got in his car after giving up five goals in relief of Corey Crawford against the Sharks. It wasn’t an easy night to leave work at work.
He was embarrassed. He was furious. He wasn’t the most pleasant dad or husband that evening, and he managed maybe five hours of sleep.
“I was a little bit grumpy,” but I think that’s not a bad thing,” he admitted.
Ward chuckled about it in the Blackhawks’ locker room Thursday night, and why wouldn’t he? He woke up the morning after the San Jose game resolved to atone for it and has done so with two outstanding games.
His latest beauty gave the Hawks their first road win since Thanksgiving weekend with a 5-2 victory over Dallas. The team is on its best run of the season with seven points in its last five games, and Ward’s been crucial.
He stopped 26 of 28 shots against the Stars and has a .949 save percentage in two starts after Crawford went on Injured Reserve with a concussion.
“I just want to compete and try to give these guys an opportunity to win,” Ward said. “Some nights it might not be as pretty as others, but as long as we’re in games and you’re making the big saves when it matters, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
That’s probably what he told his teammates after the San Jose game, when they watched a 3-2 lead flip to a 7-3 defeat.
The exact message Ward delivered is unknown, but its essence was a vow to be better. He couldn’t stomach letting them down and was adamant it wouldn’t happen again.
“He’s a guy that’s played a long time and carries some weight in the room, so I think he had a response to the guys,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Probably was a positive. I wasn’t there, but I’m pretty sure he had a few words to say.”
The most Ward offered publicly was, “I did voice my displeasure, and as a leader, as a veteran guy, if you’re gonna do that then you gotta be able to back it up.”
Whatever he said must’ve been just what they needed to hear. The Hawks looked sharp in Tuesday’s win over the Predators, and there was a noticeable ferocity in Dallas.
They jumped on the Stars 3-0 with first-period goals from Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Erik Gustafsson, plus another by Patrick Kane early in the second.
From there, the Hawks fought frantically to hold the lead. They looked downright scrappy as they cut off scoring chances on the rush and cleaned up almost everything at the net.
The Stars answered with two goals to make it a game. They charged hard over the last 10 minutes, but the Hawks held them to four shots on goal in the final period.
“We’re fighting for our lives at that point,” said DeBrincat, who also had two assists. “We’re bearing down on every puck… Those are the moments in the game where you’ve just got to get it out of the zone and live to fight another day.
“If we have that desperation all game, we’re going to get a lot of chances.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy took an elbow to the face trying to stop Dallas’ Tyler Pitlick on his way to the net late in the game and exited with a bloody face. Other than getting the gash stitched up, Colliton believed he was fine.
The Hawks added two empty-net goals in the final two minutes to end it. One of those was from Kane, who also had an assist on Gustafsson’s early score. It was his first three-point game in nearly two months.
They move on to an always-difficult visit to Colorado on Friday, facing the altitude in the second game of a back-to-back, but they’ll take the challenge boldly given the way they’re playing.
“I think we’re kinda seeing how we can be successful, and that’s a good thing in here,” Kane said. “Gives us a little confidence.”