It was an evening full of mixed emotions as the Rangers and the Lightning faced off Monday night at Madison Square Garden. In addition to the game that was played on the ice, it also featured the return of three former Rangers to the place that they once called home, as well as the former Lightning captain, Martin St. Louis, who played against his former team.
While the two men who swapped places last spring, Ryan Callahan and Martin St. Louis, both scored goals of their own, it was Callahan who stole the show for Tampa Bay, as he scored twice in the Lightning’s 5-1 victory.
Appreciate and Move On
Ryan Callahan, who spent the first eight years of his career in New York, captained the Rangers from 2011 until the day he was traded in March of 2014, in exchange for Martin St. Louis.
Callahan was a favorite among Rangers fans, and was known for his gritty, physical, shot-blocking, penalty-killing, and all-around relentless style of play. Particularly during the Tortorella era in New York, Callahan epitomized what it meant to be a New York Ranger. Henrik Lundqvist may have been the “face of the Rangers,” but Captain Cally was the face of “New York Style Hockey.”
Forward Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman spent five and three seasons in New York respectively, and in different ways, New York was the place where both of these players took the next step in their careers.
For Boyle, he had spent the first few years of his career in the LA Kings organization, bouncing back and forth between the AHL and the NHL. When he arrived in New York, though, the 6’7” center found a fourth line role which suited him perfectly. Boyle even eclipsed the 20 goal plateau, with 21, during the 2010-11 season, and was a key player during the Rangers recent post-season success.
Stralman, on the other hand, seemed to be nearing the end of the line of his career before his arrival in New York. After having minimal success during his time in Toronto and Columbus, critics started to doubt Stralman’s ability to be a full-time NHLer, and gave him the label of being too “soft.” Stralman was anything but soft when he joined the Rangers, however, and almost immediately proved his worth on the New York blue line.
Three years later, his career has been resurrected, and is one of the most valued defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
These were three players who played hard, represented New York in very positive ways, and should always be remembered fondly. They were rightfully given the warm reception they so deserved during a video montage during the first media timeout, and that was great to see.
However, despite what had happened in the past, the past is indeed the past, and the fact remained that there was still a game being played on the ice. All three former Rangers were playing for the opposition, and two points were still at stake.
The Game At Hand
The Lightning jumped out on top early with a goal from Nikita Kucherov to grab the early 1-0 lead. A little more than seven minutes later, Ryan Callahan himself beat Henrik Lundqvist on the rebound to score a power play goal.
The goal was Callahan’s seventh of the season, and you can bet that it meant a little more scoring it against the team that wasn’t willing to shell out the dough, and traded him away.
Any good feelings that Ranger fans at the Garden may have felt during the video tribute had quickly disappeared, and boos started to rain down on Callahan.
The second period began with the Rangers trailing 2-0, however, just 32 seconds into the period, the man who came to New York to replace Ryan Callahan, Martin St. Louis, scored a power play goal of his own, to pull the Rangers within one.
It was a big night for both Callahan and St. Louis, and the two who had swapped places just months before had both come to play, and each scored goals of their own. Not even Hollywood could’ve scripted it much better.
And while it seemed for a moment that we had a game at our hands, the Lightning quickly responded, and took hold of the game.
Tampa Bay outshot the Rangers 13-6 in the second period, and following St. Louis’ goal on the power play, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn scored two goals in less than five minutes, to extend the Lightning’s lead to three.
The Rangers had a small push-back in the 3rd, but it was far too little, much too late.
And finally, as if losing the game wasn’t enough, Ryan Callahan decided to pour salt in the wound of the Rangers by scoring his second goal of the night, to seal the deal for Tampa Bay, 5-1.
Things worked out pretty well for the Rangers after they traded away their captain, Ryan Callahan, last spring, as they went on a run to the Stanley Cup Final. While Monday night’s game may not have changed anyone’s mind about the trade and departures that transpired, it was surely a memorable return for Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman, and Brian Boyle, and a loss with a little extra bite for the Rangers and their fans.
At the end of the day, though, two points is two points. The trio had their moment in the sun, they were given their due for their tenures in New York, and the season will now continue. The Rangers just need to hope they’ve got more fight in them Wednesday against the Flyers than they had Monday against the Lightning.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.