Mike Ribeiro’s game-winner propels Capitals to 3-2 series lead


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Mike Ribeiro hadn’t scored a goal since April 18. He had only two goals in the last 19 contests heading into Game 5 against the New York Rangers. Still, the veteran center wasn’t stressing about his lack of offensive production.

“A lot of times way I play is the next shift is a new one. You’ll make a mistake or you’ll get mad at the refs one shift,” Ribeiro said. “During the year, you stay soggy a bit for a few shifts, but playoff time you don’t have time to waste your energy on the shift that just passed.”

Ribeiro’s approach of not dwelling on the past worked at Verizon Center on Friday night as he played his best game of the postseason by far.

He drew the penalty that paved the way for Joel Ward’s tying goal in the second period, won 70.3 percent of the faceoffs he took and recorded his first ever playoff game-winner with 9 minutes 24 seconds gone in overtime to seal a 2-1 Capitals victory.

The goal wasn’t a perfectly scripted play, but the result of the 33-year-old being in the right place at the right time. Karl Alzner’s point shot deflected off the skate of Anton Stralman, then glanced off Troy Brouwer before finding Ribeiro in front.

Ribeiro swatted the puck past Henrik Lundqvist with 9 minutes 24 seconds gone in overtime for his first playoff tally since April 27, 2008.

“All game we were grinding,” Ribeiro said. “All game, our line — pucks were in his cage, the puck wasn’t bouncing, and the puck just show up there. I was at the right time, the right moment, and we’ll take this win.”

Before Ribeiro scored to end the nail biter of a contest, though, he was making a more subtle impact. At the 7:33 of the second period Ribeiro drew a retaliatory slashing penalty on Brian Boyle after a hard-working shift by the second line. Eleven seconds into that power play Ward scored to knot the game at 1.

Ribeiro also went 19 for 27 in the faceoff circle, a stark improvement from his lack of success in draws earlier in this series, and even the regular season. Through the first four games of the series, Ribeiro was 24 for 61 on faceoffs (39.3 percent). In the regular season he won draws just 44.8 percent of the time.

“I think I did some pushups before the game. I just felt stronger. I don’t know. I felt good right away,” Ribeiro said. “Last game I had a bad game in the circle (2 for 11) and a lot of times when you have good games in the circle your focus is better, you start with the puck, you’re not chasing as much. It was important for me to bounce back. …I felt like last game I was cheating a bit defensively, and I think if you play well positioning and work hard good things will happen.”

More from the Caps’ 2-1 win in Game 5:
Wise: Caps resist playoff history
Game 5 shot tracker
Capitals’ patience is rewarded
Bog: Audio of Ribeiro’s game-winner

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Lindsay Applebaum · May 10, 2013

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