Now let's get this out of the way right off the bat (or perhaps the stick): Ward did not score in the manner of a Ron Hextall, the second goalie to score and first to do it by firing a puck into the opposition net; the retired Hextall did that twice, once in the playoffs, once in the regular season.
No, Ward's goal was more a gift courtesy New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk, With the Hurricanes leading the Devils 3-2, New Jersey pulled their goalie and their net was empty. With under a minute to play, the Devils were pressing and Ward made a save on a shot from the left point from Patrik Elias; the puck went into the corner to Kovalchuk.
Parise to Kovalchuk - Ward Scores!
Kovalchuk passed behind the net to Zach Parise, who thew it back in the corner to Kovalchuk. He was being hounded by Brandon Sutter and worked it to his forehand and threw it back toward the left point, now manned by Adam Henrique. Henrique hadn't gotten back into position after rushing forward and the puck was too far from him; he dived but missed it and it went down the ice and into the Devils' goal.
The goal was initially credited to Sutter but a review of the tape showed that while his stick came close to tipping Kovalchuk's pass, he didn't actually touch it and no other Carolina Hurricane had touched the puck after Ward had made his, appropriately, stick save on Elias' shot.
10 NHL Goalies Have Scored a Goal
The first NHL goalie to be credited with a goal was Billy Smith of the New York Islanders, who did it on Nov. 28, 1979. Smith scored in a similar manner to Ward, by making a save and watching the opposition, in this case the now-defunct Colorado Rockies and Rob Ramage, score on themselves, with Ramage making a similar play to Kovalhuck's.
Here are the 10 goalies who've scored in the NHL in order of doing so: Billy Smith (1979), Ron Hextall (1987 and '89 [playoffs]); Chris Osgood (1996); Martin Brodeur (1997 [playoffs] and 2000); Damian Rhodes (1999); Jose Theodore (2001); Evgeni Nabokov (2002); Mika Noronen (2004); Chris Mason (2006); Cam Ward (2011).
NHL Goalie Scoring Rarities
Rarities include Damian Rhodes and Jose Theodore being goalies who scored and got a shutout in the same game; Chris Mason scored in the NHL and AHL; Chris Osgood scored in the WHL and NHL (each time Geoff Sanderson was an opposing forward on the ice); Mika Noronen is the only goalie to score in the NHL and yet never record an NHL assist. Only 4 of the 10 goalies to score did so by shooting the puck into the net, the rest were 'own goals' like Ward's.
It may have added an extra note of irony to Ward's goal if Brodeur, the scorer of 2 goals and a member of the NHL Devils, was the goalie of note who left the ice for the extra-attacker, but that wasn't the case. Brodeur was on the bench but as the back-up to Jonas Hedberg on the night.
Ward, who now has 1 goal, 9 assists for 10 points in his NHL regular season career, didn't seem too excited about his accomplishment. "It would have been a lot cooler if I had shot the puck or did something like that," he said.