Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/31/11

NEW YORK - JANUARY 25: Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against on January 25, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I said before the game that if the New York Rangers found a way to somehow beat the San Jose Sharks and snap their five-game winning streak tonight, it would be a tremendous confidence booster for a hockey club that's struggled in their first nine games. Looking at tonight's 5-2 winning performance as a whole, it was absolutely the Blueshirts' most complete game of the season to date, so maybe a little more than just a confidence booster it turned out to be. The Rangers finally have a game to look back on and say "this is how we need to play", because before tonight, I don't think they even came close to having one of those. 

Captain Ryan Callahan wore the cape for the Rangers tonight, tallying two goals and an assist to lead the team to victory with a heroic effort. Cally got it all started at 4:46 of the first period when he fed Ryan McDonagh a perfect pass for a one-timer, which McD buried for his third of the season to give the Rangers an early lead. Later in the period Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan connected for a beautiful powerplay goal to make it 2-0, which happened to be Stepan's first goal of the season. 

The Sharks would strike twice after that, once at the end of the first period and again to begin the second. Joe Pavelski scored the first, sneaking a rebound through the legs of Martin Biron to cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1. Then it was Logan Couture scoring the second when he completely rifled a one-timed slapper to the top corner of the net from the circles. The Rangers' defense was caught on a long shift on that specific goal, but no matter who was out on the ice, no one was preventing that rocket from reaching the net. 

New York came storming back in the second half of the middle stanza, though, and this was ignited by a slick pass from Erik Christensen that Callahan easily tapped-in to regain the lead. Christensen, again, would pick up an assist several minutes later when he led Artem Anisimov on a mini-break to the net. The pretty part of the play, however, was Anisimov's shot, which he somehow was able to backhand between Antti Niemi's shoulder and the corner of the post to the top of the net. 

Finally, Ryan Callahan had the last say on the scoreboard tonight with his second goal of the game coming late in the second period. He found a Brad Richards' rebound, while falling, and was able to swat it into the half-empty cage to make it 5-2 Rangers. I think Joe Thornton, who referred to the Rangers as "soft" in his postgame comments, should've taken notes there, because what Cally did on that goal was how a real captain performs. Thornton was nonexistent tonight. 

While the Rangers scored five goals in this game, I think their best play came on defense. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were their usual shutdown selves, but I was more impressed by the play of Michael Del Zotto and Michael Sauer on the second pairing. I've been hard on Del Zotto this season, but that's only because I know he is capable of better things than we've seen so far. Tonight we saw the best of MDZ yet, both offensively and defensively. He played extremely well, especially with the puck, so hopefully this will be a performance to build on for Del Zotto. 

Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger had a disappointing game, and were probably the only two that applies to tonight. Thankfully, Marty Biron was on top of his game as well, so when the D was at fault, Marty came up big 24 out of 26 times tonight. Biron is now 2-0-0 on the year and has filled in for Henrik Lundqvist just fine, just as he did last season. 

I think you also have to give the Rangers credit for continuing to attack in the third period, despite holding the 5-2 lead. They learned quickly on Saturday against Ottawa that sitting back on a lead is no longer an option, so tonight they came out and outshot the Sharks from the time Cally scored the fifth goal and the end of the game. That's how this team is going to have to protect leads this season, because the whole defense-first thing hasn't worked out for them. 

And credit where credit is due, Erik Christensen was all over the place tonight. He picked up the two assists, but was also skating well and creating chances out there. It's funny what knowing their job is in jeopardy can do to a player. I’m sure yesterday's news about Sean Avery sent a surge of urgency through his body, and now, after tonight, it’s not guaranteed that Sean will be in Thurday’s lineup.

But again, the spotlight falls on Captain Callahan tonight. He's now tied for the team lead in goals (5) and continues to epitomize just exactly the style of hockey that the Rangers must play in order to succeed. Literally, he was superman tonight, soaring through the air - a Halloween costume that fits him perfectly. 


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