Ward stopped 27 shots in his second shutout of the season, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat Montreal 2-0 on Thursday night.
Brett Pesce and Brock McGinn scored to help the Hurricanes win their third straight, sweep the season series from Montreal and keep themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Carolina entered two points out of a playoff spot and has opened an eight-game homestand with consecutive victories.
"It’s crunch time. All you’ve got to do is look at the standings, and we’ve kind of preached that this is our playoffs," Ward said. "We’ve got a lot of games here at home, you want to kind of build some momentum, get some fans into the building and reward them with some wins."
Carey Price made 28 saves for the Canadiens, who have lost three in a row and fell to 2-5-2 in their last nine games.
"You don’t like losing, and it is frustrating, but I think there was an effort there tonight," coach Claude Julien said. "But I’d like to see desperation add to that effort, because that’s what we need to turn things around."
McGinn made it a two-goal game with 5:09 remaining, taking a smooth pass from Justin Williams and slipping the puck past Price.
That gave Ward some breathing room, and he finished with the 27th shutout of his 13-year career — but his first in 36 games against the Canadiens while improving his lifetime record against them to 20-12-4. He previously blanked defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh 4-0 on Jan. 4.
"The best player on the ice, by far," Pesce said.
Ward outdueled Price for the third time this season. The teams’ final meeting of the season bore little resemblance to their last one a week earlier — a wild 6-5 win by Carolina in Montreal.
"It needed to be a reverse" of that one, Ward said. "Carey Price is a world-class goaltender. You knew he was going to bounce back and be tough to beat."
Both teams entered as two of the league’s leaders in shots: The Hurricanes rank fourth in the NHL with an average of 34.3 shots, while the Canadiens are two spots behind at 33.8 shots per game.
"They came with a push," Pesce said, "and I thought we weathered it as best as we could."
Pesce came through with all the offence the Hurricanes needed at 2:43 of the second, when he blasted a slap shot from the point that got past Price. It came seconds after he whiffed on a shot attempt from just inside the blue line.
"You make a little mistake," Julien said, "and it’s in the back of our net right now."
NOTES: Montreal LW Paul Byron was back in the lineup two nights after leaving the Canadiens’ loss to St. Louis following a fall into the boards. … Pesce’s goal was his first since Jan. 14, 2017 — a span of 81 games. … Montreal assistant Kirk Muller spent three seasons as Carolina’s head coach.
Canadiens: Return home to take on Anaheim on Saturday.
Hurricanes: Play host to Detroit on Friday night.