- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mike Ribeiro wasn’t stressing.

He hadn’t scored for the Washington Capitals since April 18 and he hadn’t scored in the playoffs since April 27, 2008. Still, the playmaking No. 2 center didn’t let shifts that went by without production shake him.

“Just a lot of times way I play is the next shift is a new one,” Ribeiro said. “Playoff time you don’t have time to waste your energy on the shift that just passed.”

In overtime Friday night, there was no wasted energy, only the biggest goal of Ribeiro’s season. When he scored 9:24 into OT, he gave the Caps a 2-1 victory in Game 5 over the New York Rangers and a three games to two lead in the series.

“I was at the right time, the right moment, and we’ll take this win,” Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro scored for just the third time in the past 20 games, after his offensive prowess made him undoubtedly Washington’s best player for the first half of the season.

“Ribs was pretty much carrying us for most of the season, just point after point,” said defenseman Karl Alzner, whose shot pinballed off Troy Brouwer and Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman before getting to Ribeiro. “It’s nice to see him put a goal in. good for his confidence. We got that guy going, it’s a big threat on the second line.”

Ribeiro was in the right place at the right time, but that’s not even a knock on the 33-year-old impending free agent. The puck got to his stick, and he didn’t miss the net.

Throughout the first five games of the series, Ribeiro had largely been a nonfactor, save for the primary assist on Mike Green’s Game 2-winning goal. But he’s too talented a player to be held to one point at this time of year.

“He was due,” center Mathieu Perreault said. “He hadn’t scored in a while and he’s been working out, doing a lot of good things for us and he finally got that goal. It was huge.”

Ribeiro, who’s due for a big payday in July when unrestricted free agency opens, enjoyed his best game in a long time Friday night.

“Well, in a while,” Ribeiro said. “I felt like I played well defensively and break out from our zone good. And I was in good position defensively and I create chances.”

Ribeiro, who won 39.3 percent of his faceoffs in Games 1 through 4, was an entirely different player in the circles in Game 5. He took 27 draws and won 19, a major factor in the Caps controlling possession.

“I think I did some pushups before the game,” Ribeiro said with a grin. “I just felt stronger. I don’t know. I felt good right away. Last game I had a bad game in the circle 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.”

Ribeiro and the Caps bounced back after a rough time at Madison Square Garden this week that included penalty problems galore. In Game 5, Ribeiro goaded Rangers center Brian Boyle into a retaliatory slash that set up Washington’s only regulation goal by Joel Ward on the power play.

“I went to the net, he fell down, I cross-checked him, he turned around and give me a good whack on my calves,” Ribeiro said. “But good thing is I don’t have much there, so it didn’t hurt.”

Captain and friend Alex Ovechkin joked about Ribeiro: “You can see if you see his body. He’s not that kind of athlete but he play hard, he finish checks.”

And he finishes goals, too. Early in the season, when Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and others were struggling to produce, Ribeiro kept the Caps from falling even further out of the playoff picture.

Ribeiro’s stats weren’t as impressive late in the year, or through the first four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against New York. Before Friday night, he hadn’t scored a game-winning goal of any kind in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But he came up clutch to put the Caps within one victory of advancing.

“It’s good thing we have him here,” Ovechkin said. “Tonight he just showed up for us, and it’s big.”