The New York Rangers should keep those Halloween costumes on for the rest of the season. Against the surging San Jose Sharks on Monday night, the Blueshirts dressed up like the contenders many pegged them to be at the start of the year, treating themselves to 5-2 victory -- their first on home ice -- and ending San Jose's impressive five-game road winning streak. Altogether, they looked scary, nobody more frightening than captain Ryan Callahan, who paced the team with two goals and one assist.
There isn't anyway to sugarcoat this victory: This was New York's most complete game of the season. They did more forechecking, skating and work behind the hash marks than they have all season. They also won more puck battles in the offensive and defensize zones. Even more telling was that the Rangers out shot their opponents for the first time all season, 31-26. The result was the first win of the year -- fourth overall -- that didn't leave you at the edge of your seat simultaneously pulling out your hair because the game was so close.
It was an refreshing win that began less than five minutes in when Ryan McDonagh one-timed a shot top corner off a feed from Callahan. Derek Stepan doubled the advantage on the power play 10 minutes later on an easy tap-in goal via a cross from Brandon Dubinsky. But Joel Pavelski cut the deficit in half with less than three minutes remaining in the frame.
Talented youngster Logan Couture tied the game at 11:03 of the second period to make things interesting for a few moments, but that re-awakened the monster that was the Rangers on this night. New York scored three unanswered goals in the period beginning with Callahan's first tally of the night, on the power play three minutes later, off of perfect cross-crease pass from Erik Christensen. Artem Anisimov followed it up with a sick bank-handed, top-shelf goal ... again from Christensen.
The goal of the night, however, went to Callahan. Coming down the right wing, Brad Richards flicked a shot that Antii Niemi could not control. Callahan went around the net as the shot rebounded toward the left wing and was boxed out by the Sharks' defenseman, but managed to pop in the goal through nothing but his hard work. This goal is one that exemplifies Callahan's captaincy.
Even though no goals were scored in the third, it was an important period as New York protected a three-goal lead, which they weren't able to do a game before against the Ottawa Senators. Martin Biron had 24 saves on the night, and was steady throughout.
The Rangers were particularly dangerous tonight because of the across-the-board contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup. Facing a possible banishment to the press box if Sean Avery clears waivers, Erik Christensen had his best game of the season, assisting on two goals. Wojtek Wolski also played exceptionally -- the second game in a row -- not getting on the scoresheet, but recording seven shots on goal. The power play remained hot, as well, going 2-for-5, while the penalty kill was a perfect 0-for-3.