The season is only six games old, but the Rangers authored their most complete performance of the season Tuesday night at the Garden.
But the Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Flyers at the Garden may be a pyrrhic victory due to captain Ryan Callahan’s apparent arm injury. Callahan left the ice cradling his left arm following a wrestling match with Flyers center Max Talbot 4:42 into the third period and did not return.
The team did not have an update on Callahan after the game. He was replaced on the second line by Carl Hagelin.
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“Try to use it as motivation, I guess,” Brian Boyle said. “It sucks when he’s not out there. Obviously you know what he does. Try to motivate yourself to pick up the slack for guys who go down.”
Callahan and Talbot paired off following a post-whistle scrum around Henrik Lundqvist, in which the Flyers were jamming at the Vezina Trophy winner.
The Rangers cannot lose Callahan — the embodiment of head coach John Tortorella’s self-sacrificing system — for an extended period of time. Already there are questions about the team’s depth at forward following the free agent departures of John Mitchell, Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko, not to mention having to trade Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky to acquire Rick Nash.
“[Callahan was] protecting the goalie from him. It happens. I hope it’s nothing crazy. It’s why he’s out there. He’s a leader. He will do anything for his team. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully it’s nothing serious,” Arron Asham said.
Prior to Callahan’s injury, the Rangers appeared to be the team many thought would contend for the Stanley Cup. The Rangers have improved to .500 (3-3-0) following consecutive wins. Callahan and Michael Del Zotto scored goals for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26-of-27 shots. Callahan’s goal was his 200th NHL point. It came 11:31 into the second period and was just the Rangers’ third goal in 24 power play attempts this season.
“Our legs and our tempo of our game and our forecheck are starting to come more consistently now. We can play in their end a lot more and it keeps the defense fresh — and the forwards — and gives us good momentum. We’ve been able to build on that that,” Marc Staal said. “It’s great to get the lead and score first. Last year we were big on getting the first one and we did it a lot. We’re very comfortable playing with the lead and getting it was huge in this game.”
Especially when the Rangers spent the better part of 11:46 of the third period having to kill back-to-back-to-back penalties. Kimmo Timonen scored the Flyers’ only goal during that stretch, a wrister from the slot that beat Lundqvist high to the glove side after 7:09 had elapsed.
Timonen’s goal was the lone blemish on a strong penalty-killing effort from the Rangers, who killed five-of-six man advantages against, including a 5-on-3 for 1:17 in the second period.
“[We were] just trying to stay in the shot lane, make sure they couldn’t get through the seams,” Dan Girardi said. “That was a pretty big point in the game. Killing [the penalties off] and trying to build off that kill.”
The Rangers improved to .500 (3-3-0) following consecutive wins and have won three of their last four games.
“It’s going to take a week or two to get your timing, to get everything going,” Asham said. “Hopefully we’re over that hump and we’re starting to play some good hockey and hopefully it can continue.
“It’s going to take the guys a few games to feel comfortable and getting their timing back. Right now we’ve done well. Hopefully we can continue.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.