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When you watch this Rangers team night in and night out across the entire season, it can be hard not to write glowing tributes to Ryan Callahan a couple of times a week.
We've already given the Rangers captain the full treatment this month, so we'll try not to go too overboard with another bit of flowery praise in the wake of Wednesday night's 4-2 win over the Jets. It's hard, though, because he pretty much keyed the entire comeback victory all by himself.
Perhaps we'll start with a bit of a negative, just to keep things interesting. Callahan was one of the guys responsible for sleeping on defense when the Jets cruised in for a second goal in less than a minute, putting them up 2-0 and making it look like a flat first half of the game would be enough to keep things uncomfortably tight in the race with the Penguins.
The feeling grew a few minutes later when the Rangers took another penalty, the fifth of the night, and put the Jets back on the power play. Henrik Lundqvist had stood tall on previous disadvantages, including a 5-on-3, but it seemed like just a matter of time before the roof would cave in on the whole mess.
Enter Cally. He took the puck away in the Jets' zone, curled around the net and left the puck on the doorstep for Michael Del Zotto to convert for a shorthanded goal that changed the entire tenor of the game.
The Rangers were on the power play a few minutes later, Callahan carved out a spot in front of the net and turned a Marian Gaborik pass into his 28th goal of the season. And the Rangers' fourth goal would come on another power play in the third period when Callahan drew an understandably skittish Jets defense and opened up an easy shooting lane for Derek Stepan.
Nothing exceptional about any of the plays nor was there much exceptional about the blocked shots, hits and assorted other plays that Callahan made while playing nearly half the game. Nothing exceptional, but no exception, either.
This is simply the kind of game we're used to seeing from Callahan every time he hits the ice and the kind of game that lifted an entire team from the doldrums of the second night of a back-to-back. When it was over, the Rangers were up five points on the idle Penguins and sitting even closer to clinching first place in the East about 48 hours after they were on the brink of falling out of the top spot.
That kind of fight with backs against the wall has been the Rangers' hallmark all season. That doesn't come from thin air.
It comes from their captain.