Callahan shows the way to victory

Alternate captain's big hit opens door for Girardi's game-winner vs. Flames

Monday, 11.22.2010 / 11:12 PM / News
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Callahan shows the way to victory

Ryan Callahan
Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan parks himself in front of Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester. Callahan later leveled Bouwmeester with a hit that changed the complexion of the game and led to Dan Girardi's winning goal in the second period.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

Ryan Callahan’s name did not end up on the scoresheet when Dan Girardi scored the eventual game-winning goal in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Monday night at Madison Square Garden. In fact Callahan was not even on the ice when Girardi’s power-play blast eluded Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

But Callahan had as much to do with that game-winner taking place as any player in this hard-fought game.

At a time in the game when their play had leveled off and the Rangers needed a lift, Callahan crushed hulking Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester -- who is six inches taller than the Blueshirts alternate captain -- to the ice with a perfectly executed check 12:27 into the second period.

Not only did the hit get The Garden crowd excited, it led directly a Rangers power play when Calgary’s Curtis Glencross jumped in to defend Bouwmeester and subsequently was penalized for high-sticking.

Fourteen seconds later, Girardi scored to snap a 1-1 tie and send the Blueshirts to their second straight win, and fifth in their last seven games.

“That’s part of Cally’s game, and that’s what he’s great at,” said Girardi, who also recorded an assist and now has four points in his last two games. “He may not get credit for it, but he’s a big part of that goal, for sure.”

Callahan’s hit was one of 11 credited to him on the night. That total was exactly one-quarter of the 44 total hits credited to the Rangers on Monday night in what turned out to be an extremely rugged, hard-hitting contest between these two non-conference opponents that only face each other once this season.

Rangers goaltender Martin Biron, who finished with 31 saves to earn No. 1 star honors, gets some help in his own zone from Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan, and Steve Eminger during Monday's win.
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“I think we like to play a physical game, finish our checks and play hard, and so do they,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “I think it kind of built up from there. We finished checks, and they didn’t like it. They finished checks, and we didn’t like it. It definitely built the animosity up.”

Staal was credited with only one hit in the game, but it might have been the hardest one -- even more powerful than the one Callahan delivered on Bouwmeester. Midway through the third period Flames center Matt Stajan skated over the Rangers blueline with his head down as he looked to make a pass. Staal stepped up and sent Stajan flying to the ice with a stiff shoulder check that left Stajan woozy and stumbling when he tried to get off the ice.

Although the Flames did not like the hit -- just as they did not appreciate Callahan’s crushing check -- the play was clean and no penalty was handed out by the referees.

“With the new rule about the blindside hits I think (big hits) come under more analysis,” said Staal. “But all I did was step up and finish him.”

A definitive edge and physical tone was set in the first period when Rangers rookie Michael Sauer was involved in three incidents totaling 12 minutes worth of penalties for him. At the 7:10 mark, he lowered the boom on Calgary’s Stefan Meyer behind the Rangers’ net, drawing a boarding penalty, which was negated when Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos jumped Sauer from behind to earn a roughing minor.

After coming out of the penalty box Sauer and Kostopoulos dropped the gloves and engaged in a heated fight, one that was replicated seven minutes later when Sauer accepted the challenge of Meyer.

“It all started with a hit that was not so bad, but looked worse because he started to turn away to make a play,” said Sauer. “I can’t let him make that play so I tried to take him out. What happened afterwards is what they felt had to be done. It was no big deal.”

After a scoreless first period the Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead 2:08 into the second on a fluky goal. Racing down right wing on a 2-on-1 rush, Brian Boyle looked to center the puck to teammate Ruslan Fedotenko. The puck never reached Fedotenko because it hit the stick of Calgary defenseman Brendan Mikkelson and deflected past Kiprusoff for Boyle’s ninth goal of the season.

Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy congratulates forward Brian Boyle after Boyle opened the scoring with a 2-on-0 goal at 2:08 of the second period.
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Flames captain Jarome Iginla scored his ninth goal of the season, off a 3-on-1 rush up ice, at 5:16 to tie the game before Callahan’s big hit and Girardi’s big goal turned the game permanently in the home team’s favor.

“I really liked a lot of the effort we gave,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We weren’t dead-on in our game, but we found a way.”

On the game-winning goal, rookie center Derek Stepan cleanly won the offensive zone face-off back to Girardi, who skated in a few strides on right wing before firing a shot that just sneaked past Kiprusoff for his second goal of the season.

“I am getting more and more comfortable with face-offs and I’ve seemed to find a groove and found a rhythm,” said Stepan, who now has points in four straight games. “But Cally’s big hit led to that power-play goal, and that’s why he has the A on his chest and that’s why he’s a leader here. A lot of people might not know it, but (Callahan’s hit) was a huge play for us.”

Also huge for the Rangers was the sparkling play once again of Martin Biron in goal. Making his second consecutive start after leading the Blueshirts to a 5-2 win Saturday night in Minnesota, Biron turned aside 31 shots to pick up another big win on Monday.

Sixteen of Biron’s saves came during the third period when the Flames desperately tried to tie the game.

It was also in that third period that The Garden Faithful buoyed Biron with resounding chants of “Marty! Marty!”

“It’s greatly appreciated when the fans are responding that way,” said Biron, who is now 5-2-0 on the season. “I know that I get goose bumps when I am on the bench and (Henrik Lundqvist) makes three or four big saves and the crowd starts chanting ‘Henrik!’ The hairs start standing up on my arms. And when you are the one in there and hear it, you get even more pumped up.”

With two straight strong wins in a row the Rangers set off for the Sunshine State where they will spend the majority of Thanksgiving week. They will face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night and the Florida Panthers on Friday before skating against the Predators in Nashville on Saturday.