There was no clock ticking in Joel Ward's mind -- no countdown, no moment of Zen. There's a chance he didn't even hear the buzzer.
This is what he did hear: "I was just screaming . . . I didn't even know what was going on," he said. " . . . I didn't even know how much time was left. I was just screaming for Ovi."
Here are the sounds that came after, according to Ward, who scored with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to give the Capitals a 2-1 win over the Rangers in Game 1 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. "I just took a crack . . . there was a whole lot of hoopla after . . . ," he said. "[Then] we were just high-fiving and dancing and I didn't even know if I beat the buzzer or not until we all looked up. I had no idea at the time."
Now he and pretty much everyone else knows what happened -- how Alex Ovechkin, from behind the Rangers' net, fed it to Ward, who was left all alone in front and scored the winner against Henrik Lundqvist.
Coach Barry Trotz said his Capitals "didn't play very good today," but the truth is, to the very last second of regulation, the Caps played exactly the type of game that has gotten them this far: physical and opportunistic. And, of course, they were propelled by the likes of Ovechkin, who got the primary assist, and Nicklas Backstrom, who laid out defenseman Dan Boyle (he appeared to hit his head) to pave the way to a wide-open Ward.
"I really don't remember, to be honest," Ryan McDonagh said of the Boyle hit. "I thought [the referees] were going to blow [the whistle]. I kind of hesitated for a second and [Ovechkin] is going around the net, makes a good play out front and they bang it in."
It was, from every account, a whirlwind -- and one worthy of two teams that played relentlessly for most of the game. It's no wonder, then, that the only thing Ward really remembers is the screaming. Most of it came from him, he said, and some of it from his teammates after the puck went in the net.
Above all, though, he was looking for Ovechkin to give him the pass that he would turn into the winning shot.
Hey, how do you say 'I'm open' in Russian, anyway, Ward was asked. He smiled and said: "Ovi."
If that's what "Ovi" means, then for one night, "Ward'' meant "win.''