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Ribeiro leads Caps to 2-1 OT, pushing Rangers to brink of elimination

- May 11th, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, thanks to their second overtime victory in three games at Verizon Center.

After getting a 1-0 win in Game 2 on an OT winner from Mike Green, his time it was an even-strength marker from Mike Ribeiro — who has been largely silent on the offensive side of things, outside of setting up Green with a slight-of-hand fake slapper that set up the blue-liner for a one-timer.

This goal came after a shot from the left point by Karl Alzner touched Troy Brouwer and then hit the skate of Rangers D Anton Stralman and right onto the stick of Ribeiro, who swatted the loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist, who essentially had no chance on another night where he got his team to extra time with more superb goaltending.

“It was just one of those things; we were throwing pucks at the net,” said Alzner. “We know what it’s like in the defensive side: when pucks keep coming, you start to panic a little bit. We just wanted to keep funneling them to the net. And I don’t even really know if I saw a lane; I just saw the guy go down. I was just trying to shoot wide and got a good bounce there. I’m happy about that.”

Caps G Braden Holtby told me after the game that since Lundqvist was playing so well, he figured he might have to play five or six periods.

As for Ribeiro, he had a massive impact on the outcome.

“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,” said Ribeiro. “You start with the puck, you’re not chasing as much. It was important for me to bounce back.”

Aside from the obvious GWG, he also sucked Rangers F Brian Boyle into a retaliation penalty at 7:33 of the second period. When I asked him about the play, Ribeiro admitted that he started the encounter, but Boyle responded by two-handing him n the back of the leg, right in front of a referee no less.

Rangers head coach John Tortorella called out Boyle for the dumb penalty, noting that he’s been playing great, but it was still a dumb penalty.

Tortorella is 100% right on that one. Nobody feels worse than Boyle about what happened. He knows better and his lapse in judgement turned the game around.

Joel Ward made the Rangers pay just 11 seconds into the man advantage, taking a one-touch pass from Marcus Johansson and blasting his shot past Lundqvist for his 11th playoff goal.

Ward had a strong game as he stayed up on the third unit with Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera, as Martin Erat sat out with a suspected left wrist/forearm injury.

The Rangers had an excellent start, as Boyle buried a pass from Derick Brassard just 53 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 lead that sucked some of the life out of the building.

“It was a great start, that’s what we wanted to do, come out strong. Try to carry some of the momentum we had from the last two wins and I thought we did that,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who had no shots on goal but managed six hits.

The problem for the Rangers is that they didn’t score again and were held to only five shots during the second period and four shots in the third period, one of which was a long dump-in. In overtime though, the Rangers had six shots on goal and two came on one flurry that saw Holtby make saves on Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin.

“We didn’t have a forecheck, which means our D faced a lot,” said Rangers C Brad Richards, who is still searching for his game. “(The Capitals were coming hard and we didn’t do enough to keep the puck in their end and take the pressure off.”

The Rangers will take some solace in the fact they won the two previous games in the series at MSG and that this battle-tested bunch knows what it takes to stay alive in elimination games, having encountered several last spring.

It was another night when the two superstars were held off the scoresheet, though Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was the more dangerous of the two, finishing with nine shots, including a couple of dangerous chances with the game on the line.

Ovechkin has gone three games without a point, while Nash has only one assist through five games, though that was the assist on the GWG by Stepan in Game 3.

Nash had only two shots on goal (four hits) in 20 minutes of ice time on Friday and to me, it looks like his wrist could be bothering him.

Hagelin was the most dangerous Ranger and he recorded five shots on net, including a partial breakaway that was turned aside by Holtby.

Brassard had an assist on the Boyle goal to give him one goal and six points during the past three games.

Bad news for the Rangers as LW Ryane Clowe was limited to three shifts (1:55 of ice time) after he was hit into the boards by Chimera, a play which led to a boarding call.

Since Clowe had been dealing with a suspected concussion that kept him out of the first three games of the series, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he may have suffered another as his head hit the glass on the hit.

On the flip side, Capitals’ 2012 first rounder Tom Wilson made his NHL debut in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and looked comfortable for a guy who is 19 and only made his pro debut with the Hersey Bears of the American Hockey League on May 4.

“I was pretty nervous,” said Wilson, the 16th overall pick. “I was at the rink and I wasn’t that nervous. Then I got back to the hotel, had some down time and it kind of set in.

“It was just unbelievable. The fans, you could hear them, everyone could hear them. It was just the best support we could have. And to have a finish like that, it was just a dream come true and everything I imagined.”

I wrote my sidebar on Wilson’s debut, while my main looked a lot closely at Ribeiro’s all-around effort. The one part of Ribeiro’s game that I didn’t get into was his dominant night in the face-off circle. After struggling to the tune of 39.3% in the dots during the first four games, Ribeiro was 19-of-28 on Friday as the Caps won 58% of the draws.

Here’s a quote from Caps head coach Adam Oates that didn’t get into my game column:

“He’s played very good hockey for us, he’s played good in the series and just hasn’t got one go his way and obviously a huge goal,” said Oates.

I’ll be checking out what the Capitals have to say on Saturday at what is expected to be an optional skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The Rangers flew home after the game and will hold a practice at MSG Training Center at 2 p.m.

Sunday’s Game 6 goes at 4:30 ET at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers try to keep their season alive.

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