Tuesday night should have been a very good night for the Rangers.
They imposed their will on the Flyers, outworking them in all phases of the game as they grabbed a 2-0 lead and held it into the third period. It was going to be a second-straight win for the Rangers, moving them to a .500 record on the season and doing much to quiet the concerns raised by the lifeless performances in the first two games of the season.
It was a feel-good night at the Garden until about five minutes had passed in the third period. That's when Ryan Callahan and Maxime Talbot got tangled up after a stoppage and decided to drop the gloves.
No fight really started, just a lot of pushing and pulling between the two players before Talbot yanked Callahan to the ice by his left arm. Callahan, who scored the second goal off a pretty Michael Del Zotto feed, immediately got up and skated to the exit to the locker room to get his shoulder/arm looked at by trainers, casting a pall over the Garden and making for a tense close to the game.
The Flyers would score on a power play set up by a dumb Carl Hagelin penalty a bit later, but the Rangers would kill a couple of other penalties and escape with a 2-1 victory. All anyone could think about was the status of the Ranger captain, though.
There wasn't any update from John Tortorella, although its notable that he said he had "no idea" rather than that it wasn't serious or that Callahan would be okay. It looked a lot like a subluxation of the shoulder, an injury that could keep the forward out for several weeks at a moment when the Rangers were already dissatisfied with much of their front line.
Injuries like that can be killers in normal seasons. In abbreviated seasons like this, you can triple that.
If Chris Kreider can't step back into the lineup after his ankle injury, the Rangers will be in a pickle. They could reach down to the minors, although there's no one who seems ready for real minutes at this point in time, or go outside the organization in an attempt to replace some of what Callahan brings to the table.
There's no positive spin to put on the injury, but one saving grace is that Rick Nash brings the same kind of zeal to playing all over the ice that Callahan does. At the very least, the top lines will have someone with a similar spirit to take care of some of that work while Tortorella tries to shuffle the rest of the players into a workable unit.
We've reached the first obstacle of the Rangers season. It's looking like a big one.