Both players faced their former teams for the first time Monday night, the Lightning traveling to New York City to match up against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Rangers.
Both Callahan and St. Louis scored at Madison Square Garden.
Callahan, however, netted two, including the game winner, in a 5-1 Tampa Bay victory.
On Tampa Bay’s first power play of the game, Callahan pushed a tap in at the backdoor past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to put the Lightning up for good 2-1.
“I can’t say enough about Ryan Callahan,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s been doing that for us since the day we acquired him. I’m just so glad he’s on our bench and not theirs.”
New York’s Marc Staal was whistled for tripping Jason Garrison at 13:36 of the first period, and the Lightning took advantage 44 seconds later. Some great stickhandling by Steven Stamkos allowed the Lightning captain to get free on the left wing near goal. Stamkos fired a pass across the crease to Callahan on the back post, and Callahan tapped the easy sitter into the goal to push the Lightning in front.
“I don’t know what you say, you have to write it up before the game, that was pretty much how you’d like to write it up,” Cooper said.
Tampa Bay (13-4-2) wins its second game in a row, which follows its first multi-game (two) losing streak of the season. The victory helps the Lightning keep pace with the Atlantic Division leading Montreal Canadiens (29 points), who have won six straight and remain a point in front of the Bolts (28).
The Rangers (7-7-4, 18 points) scored on a power play 32 seconds into the second period, taking advantage of a tripping call to Matt Carle with 40 seconds left in the first. From the right circle, St. Louis sent a pass toward the back post for a teammate. The puck hit the stick of Garrison, however, and was redirected into the Bolts goal to make the score 2-1.
New York had an opportunity to tie it up after consecutive penalties on the Lightning gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage for 32 seconds immediately following St. Louis’ goal. The Bolts, however, only allowed one shot and easily killed off both penalties.
“Potential turning point in the game,” Cooper said. They had little mojo going, and we kind of snuffed it out.”
Stamkos moved into a tie for the NHL lead with his 12th goal of the season 14:08 into the second to put the Bolts back up by two. Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula cleverly stole a pass near the Rangers blue line and passed ahead to Stamkos alone on a breakaway. Stamkos deked, putting Lundqvist on his butt, then calmly slid the puck in the net for a 3-1 Lightning lead.
Filppula earned his second assist of the night and 14th of the season.
“When a team’s kind of feeling it to kind of get their way back in, and then, instead of them tying it up, we extended the lead, that was kind of the beginning of the end for them,” Cooper said.
Alex Killorn, who missed eight games due to injury in late October and early November, scored for the first time since October 18 to give the Lightning an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
On an odd-man rush, Tyler Johnson centered a pass from the right wing for Killorn, and the former third round pick snapped a wrist shot that rang the crossbar before crashing into the back of the net.
Ondrej Palat and Johnson picked up assists, the second of the night for each.
Johnson leads the Bolts with 15 helpers this season.
Moments before Killorn’s goal, Jonathan Drouin thought he had scored the second goal of his NHL career, but Killorn was deemed to have interfered with Lundqvist and the goal was disallowed.
“We were joking on the bench, Killer’s the guy that does the goalie interference, then he’s the one that goes and scores,” Cooper said. “We told him he should skate by and give that goal to Drouin.”
Callahan netted a late, third period goal to put a bow on a second-straight dominating performance for the Bolts against a team from New York. With less than three minutes in the game, Stamkos wheeled and dealed behind the net before finding Callahan in front of goal, and the Rochester, N.Y., native held the puck to get Lundqvist to bite before skating around the goalie and shooting into the open net.
“(The Rangers) were Stanley Cup Finalists, so they’ve got some ballplayers on the other side,” Cooper said. “But, I thought we did a pretty good job of containing them. When you give them open ice, that’s when they can really hurt you, and I thought we kind of clogged that up for them.”
Tampa Bay, the top-scoring team in the NHL, scored five or more goals for the sixth time this season.
The talented trio of Nikita Kucherov, Johnson and Palat produced again for Tampa Bay, the youngsters combining for the Lightning’s first goal 6:50 into the opening period. Palat sent a pass ahead from the Bolts zone to the middle of the rink for Johnson, who touched the puck to Kucherov alone on goal. Kucherov saw an opening five hole through Lundqvist (25 saves) and slipped the puck underneath, the goalie getting a piece of the puck but not enough to stop it from crossing the goal line.
Palat and Johnson picked up assists on Kucherov’s goal, his seventh of the season.
The Bolts surrendered a season-low 16 shots to the Rangers, the first time they kept a team under 20.
“To hold them to five shots in the third, we were pretty happy with that,” Cooper said.
Tampa Bay sent 30 shots at Lundqvist’s net.
Ben Bishop won for the second game in a row, stopping 15 of 16 shots to improve to 11-2-2 on the season.
“I thought Stralman was outstanding back there for us tonight,” Cooper said. “He led us on the D, on the back end. Boyle does his thing. He’s a menace to play against.”
The Lightning play the second game of a back-to-back on Tuesday, staying in the Empire State for a matchup against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (ET). The Bolts conclude their three-game road trip Thursday at Toronto.