NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Callahan enjoyed many nights like this one at Madison Square Garden. The only difference this time was his sweater was white instead of home blue.
Callahan scored two goals in his first game against his former New York Rangers teammates, and the surging Tampa Bay Lightning rode another big offensive outburst to a 5-1 victory Monday night.
A popular Rangers captain not long ago, Callahan netted the second of Tampa Bay’s two first-period goals and then closed the scoring with 2:51 left in the game.
“I was excited to get the opportunity to go out there and play again in front of this crowd,” he said.
While there were jerseys with his name on the back and familiar ‘C’ on the front, Callahan heard boos early when he touched the puck. Those turned to cheers around 7 minutes in when a video tribute to him and fellow former Rangers Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman, with the message “Thanks for the memories. We salute you,” was shown.
“They didn’t have to do that,” Callahan said. “That’s the Rangers organization. It shows how classy they are. The fans cheering — that shows how classy they are.
“The win helps, but I really enjoyed my first time back here.”
The warm reception reverted to boos as the Lightning improved to 12-0 when Callahan scores since he was acquired in the captain-swap trade that sent Martin St. Louis to New York on March 5.
Tampa Bay increased its NHL-leading goal total to 71. Nikita Kucherov also scored in the opening frame, and Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn had goals in the second after New York closed to 2-1.
Stamkos also had two assists, as did Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula. Ben Bishop made 15 saves on New York’s season-low 16 shots.
“I’m glad I was able to get the puck to Cally,” Stamkos said. “You keep working, you keep getting rewarded. That’s how we look at every game. I’m just happy. This is a great feeling for all of us.”
The Lightning (13-4-2), one point behind Eastern Conference-leading Montreal, are 8-1-1 in their past 10.
St. Louis, the Lightning’s career points leader, scored a power-play goal in the second period for the Rangers, 1-3-2 in their last six. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots.
“You can live with yourself losing a game you know you played the right way,” said St. Louis, who was a minus-4. “I don’t know how we can live with that one.”
Inconsistency has crept into the game of the defending Eastern Conference champions, and they are troubled by it.
“I am concerned,” Lundqvist said. “We just have to keep talking about it in practice and believe in each other and stay positive. We know it’s there. We showed it.”
The Lightning grabbed a two-goal lead in a span of 7:30 in the first period.
Just after Bishop stopped St. Louis on a chance in front, the Lightning got on the board at the other end.
Johnson sent a crisp pass that sent Kucherov in alone on Lundqvist. He flipped a shot that hit Lundqvist but found its way between the goalie’s pads as he was falling backward at 6:50.
It was Kucherov’s seventh goal — all in the past 12 games — and his 14th point in that span. Johnson has 19 points in 16 games.
Callahan doubled the lead during a power play on the Lightning’s fourth shot.
Stamkos deftly worked the puck low from the left circle and found Callahan alone at the right post with a pass for a slam shot that Lundqvist had no chance to stop. Callahan has four goals and five assists in his past six games.
The Rangers (7-7-4) received their first power play in the final minute of the first period and it carried into the second. St. Louis cut the deficit to 2-1 just 32 seconds in when his shot from the right side was accidentally steered into the net from the crease by Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison.
New York had a two-man power play in the second, but couldn’t take advantage.
“It’s very tough to explain,” frustrated coach Alain Vigneault said. “We had a good start. They scored that goal and seemed to get momentum. We had a good start in the second, forced them into a few penalties, and then they scored.
“Other than the start to both periods, everything in between was just a total disaster.”
Tampa Bay broke it open when Stamkos and Killorn scored 4:34 apart late in the second, shortly after a Lightning goal was waved off because Killorn interfered with Lundqvist.
NOTES: Stamkos has a six-game point streak, with four goals and four assists. … St. Louis hadn’t played against the Lightning since Jan. 8, 2000, when he was with Calgary. He has scored against every NHL team.
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