WASHINGTON --Brad Richards had his ups and downs during the regular season. He had two goals and no assists over 10 games in December and followed that with a stretch of three points in 12 games between January and February.
During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as is his modus operandi, he's been coming up big.
Richards is fifth in postseason scoring with 10 points in 12 games, including what could've been a season-saving goal with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Capitals on Monday night. The Rangers would go on to win in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 scheduled for Wednesday night in Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
In his postseason career, Richards has 72 points in 75 games and had seven-game winning goals during the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to Stanley Cup Final in 2004 when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Rangers coach John Tortorella is known for his short answers, but it was fitting in this case when he was asked what makes Richards so good in the playoffs.
"He’s got 'it,'" said Tortorella, who coached Richards for seven seasons in Tampa Bay.
"I've known him since he was a kid, when he broke into the League," he said, "and he's made big plays at key times."
With the Rangers staring elimination in the eye in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators in the conference quarterfinals, Richards put his team ahead for good by uncorking a slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play that ripped past goaltender Craig Anderson.
Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko was Richards' teammate in Tampa Bay four seasons, including 2004, and knows what Richards means to the Rangers' chances of winning a Stanley Cup this year.
"He's a good player. That's why the team got him in free agency -- to help us win the Cup," Fedotenko said. "One guy can't do it, but he's a big piece to the puzzle. He knows how to compete in the playoffs."
That's a really tough thing to play through; when you finally are thrown out there, the game is fast, intense, every single play matters, you've got to find a way to play through that and make smart plays. So it's a huge testament to [Vermette] and some other individuals in our locker room that are putting their own ego, their own wants and needs aside, and are ready for those opportunities when they do come.
— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on teammate Antoine Vermette, who returned from being a healthy scratch in Game 3 to score the double-overtime winner in Game 4