RALEIGH, N.C. -- Cam Ward thought he was going to wake up from all this and, poof, it was gone.
Then it was.
He was replaced in goal. And, poof, the dream look like it ended. But it's on again. Better than before.
"I don't know if I want to pinch myself just yet. But I sure want to keep it going," said Ward after he saved the day and the season in a big way for the Carolina Hurricanes here last night.
Just when you figured he'd finished author his remarkable Stanley Cup fairy tale, Ward has given himself and his hockey team a chance to write the storybook ending.
Overcoming the plot twist, when he was replaced by Martin Gerber in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, Ward put his red Superman outfit back on here last night.
With the 'Canes down 3-1 early in the second period he shut the Buffalo Sabres down the rest of the way.
Not allowing a single shot to get by him, Ward held the fort until former Calgary Flame Cory Stillman won it at 8:46 of OT.
At 1:55 of the second period, Ward replaced Gerber, who gave up three goals on the first 11 shots. Ward stopped all six shots in the second period, all seven in the third and both in overtime. He made monster saves on Maxim Afinogenov late in the third period and on ex-Oiler Jochen Hecht in overtime.
The Sherwood Park product, who had been well on his way to being the second coming of Ken Dryden as a rookie goaltending story in the Stanley Cup playoffs back in the spring of 1971, is back in business.
He's one win away from going to the Stanley Cup Final.
ONE WIN FROM THE FINAL
Better yet he's one win from going to the final against the Edmonton Oilers, the team he used to cheer for as a kid.
"I was an Oiler fan. It doesn't seem that long ago I watched Doug Weight playing against the Dallas Stars in the first round," he said of the guy who is now his teammate.
"My dad was able to take me to a lot of games. I definitely don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but if we win one more game, I'm probably going to be broke with the tickets I'd have to get to those games in Edmonton."
Ward is 10-4 in the playoffs.
The rookie, who played under Brent Sutter with the Red Deer Rebels, won each of his first seven Stanley Cup starts to tie him with Boston's Tiny Thompson back in 1930 for the record.
Ward led the 'Canes to a 4-2 series win over the Montreal Canadiens in the first round and a 3-0 lead on the New Jersey Devils before suffering his first loss going against Martin Brodeur.
Ward, who has stopped 302 of 329 shots this Stanley season, was replaced by Gerber for Game 4 in Buffalo in what was the first game for Switzerland's national netminder since April 14.
"Obviously it was disappointing," he said. "This is the best time of the year and you want to keep on the ice. But Martin had a big game in Game 4 and we won it and I kept on an even keel."
PUT THE CAPE BACK ON
He was obviously ready to put his cape back on and go back to work as the 'Canes superhero.
That's what he was, said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "He definitely made the key saves at the key times for them to win a hockey game."
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette was asked if the stunning breakaway save on Afinogenov, with 4:02 minutes to go, saved a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final?
"I don't know if it saved the season, but it certainly saved the game," said Laviolette.
"I made the change because we'd given up three goals on what, 10 shots?"
Laviolette said it is a great Stanley Cup story the rookie is writing.
"It's not a fairy tale in terms of him coming out of nowhere. It's just that it's his first crack at the Stanley Cup playoffs. He's an excellent goalie who has had a chance to shine and make the most of it."
Good thing he did here last night, said captain Rod Brind'Amour.
"That felt like our worst game of the series," said Brind'Amour. "But we got some good goaltending and great saves."
Cam Ward is back. The story continues.