Who says the shootout isn’t exciting? The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in the 13th round of the shootout thanks to a filthy deke from 39-year-old Sami Salo, but it was another player who stood out over the course of the game.
When the Lightning traded for Ryan Callahan in exchange for Martin St. Louis, some people were skeptical on whether or not Callahan could play a crucial role in the Lightning’s push for the playoffs. Perhaps not as skilled as St. Louis, people weren’t sure if Callahan had the ability to produce offensively.
On Thursday night against the Islanders, Callahan proved that he can lead the team when none of his teammates are able to get anything going offensively. Callahan had both goals for the Lightning and created countless chances throughout. He set up his second goal by hustling toward the blue line in his own end in order to prevent an offside call, hustled back toward the net, picked up the rebound and tied the game 2-2. It wasn’t pretty, but they all count. He honestly should have been all three stars of the game.
He doesn’t just have an impact in the offensive zone. Callahan is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL as well, and isn’t afraid to throw his body weight around when he needs to. With just 10 seconds left in the game and the score tied, the puck rimmed around to Callahan in his own end. Instead of flailing his stick at the puck and trying to poke it around the Islanders’ defenseman, he took a huge body check and chipped the puck out in order to preserve the tie game and at least guarantee his team a point.
The Lightning now have points in 10 straight games, and Callahan will be a crucial part of the equation that decides whether or not the Lightning make the playoffs. They are currently in a pretty comfortable spot, nine points ahead of the eighth-place team in the Eastern Conference, but anything can happen over the final weeks of the season.
It would have been fitting for Callahan to score the game-winner in the shootout, but I’m sure he’ll take the two points anyway.