WASHINGTON -- Mike Ribeiro felt he was due for a lucky bounce, so the Washington Capitals center wasn't totally surprised that the puck ended up on his stick and eventually in the back of the net for the overtime winner Friday night.
"I think our line, especially [Friday], we were buzzing around," Ribeiro said roughly 15 minutes after his goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. "Since the beginning of this series I think we were buzzing around and having chances and couldn't score, but finally that bounce came at the right time, right moment."
The bounce and Ribeiro's goal give Washington the opportunity to close out New York in Game 6 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (4:30 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).
Ribeiro said patience was the key to breaking through on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 33 saves.
"They're a team that takes away time and space on the ice. They're a team that likes to block shots," Ribeiro said. "So you have to stay patient and not get frustrated. I think we did a great job of doing that [Friday night], just staying patient and waiting and waiting and grinding them down with wave after wave, putting pucks deep and forechecking those Ds. Then we were able to get that goal."
For Ribeiro, who had 49 points during the regular season, it was his first goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since April 27, 2008. Granted, 2008 was the last time he was in the playoffs before this season. It also was his first game-winning goal in the playoffs.
"It's a good thing we have him," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "He's that kind of guy in the locker room and on the ice. If you see his body language you know he plays hard, he finishes checks. He can do two-way play and [Friday night] he showed up for us. It's big."
Ribeiro didn't just show up in the slot in time to sweep in the loose puck, which came to him off a deflected shot; he also showed up in the faceoff circle in a big way.
Ribeiro won 19 of 27 draws in Game 5 after losing nine of 11 in Game 4 on Wednesday. He won the faceoff that led to his winning goal at 9:24 of overtime.
"I felt good right away," Ribeiro said. "Last game, I had a bad game in the circle. There are 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, to be strong in that circle to start with the puck."
The puck wasn't Ribeiro's friend over the first four games of the series, when he was held to one assist and seven shots on goal. It finally came to him at the right time in the right spot Friday night.
"You know what, it's obviously a very big goal for him," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "He's played very good hockey for us. He's played good in the series and just hasn't got one to go his way. Obviously a huge goal."